Sunday, November 19th, 2017

I get it now. We get to pay more later, too.


Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima was interviewed for today’s Waukesha Freeman regarding the city budget. He tries to defend the separate garbage tax/fee, something he didn’t bother to do in his Saturday op/ed for the Freeman.

THE FREEMAN:What are your views on the garbage fee?

SCRIMA: It’s correcting a long-standing inequity. City taxes currently include garbage removal. Commercial and condominium property owners are paying the same taxes, yet they have to pay for their own garbage removal, which is unfair. They are double-paying. Everyone agrees it’s not fair to double-pay.To solve this problem, we are proposing to remove garbage pickup from the tax rolls and just have a garbage collection fee, ONLY for the residents that use this city service.The fee also provides better accountability to the citizens (than a tax increase) because they can see exactly where their money is going.

THE FREEMAN: Is this a common practice in cities like Waukesha?

SCRIMA: (Interim City Administrator) Steve Crandell noted in the budget transmittal letter that many fiscally conservative communities already do this. It said, “Many communities around us such as Oconomowoc, Menomonee Falls and Pewaukee have been charging garbage fees for many years. Other communities around the state have separate fees, such as Appleton Beloit and Greenfield, and many communities such as Eau Claire and New Berlin provide no trash service at all.”

THE FREEMAN:What can citizens expect from the trash fee in the future?

SCRIMA:This sets us up in years to come to consider an “only charged what you throw” program which would provide further equity to our homeowners, whereby those that produce less trash and recycle more material would pay less. It would also further encourage recycling because people that recycle would get a credit, so people will be saving money and saving the environment.The vision is to create equity with the fee next year and later, with Common Council approval, move to a charge-what-you-throw program.We’ll never get to step two if we don’t get to step one.

After he does number one on your tax bill, he’s going to go number two.

So Scrima believes that we should separate out the cost of garbage collection because down the road he wants to charge us even more for garbage collection while they figure out how much each household actually throws away. When that day comes, I recommend everyone take their garbage to Scrima’s declared residence since he rarely has any garbage to throw away.

Scrima also says that because other communities do it, we should, too. No, really. But notice what city the mayor neglects to mention, Milwaukee. Milwaukee has a garbage collection fee. Milwaukee has other fees, too. This is a dangerous precedent, one that the council has wisely not set before.

(Sarcastically, I might add Milwaukee is also building a trolley. Thank goodness we’re not adding one, too.)

As for the supposed inequity, it’s not as if these condo developers (like Scrima’s family) did not know what the rules were when they developed the condos. As a commenter on a previous blog post points out, the idea behind the approval of these large units and the encouragement of businesses to move to Waukesha is that they would reduce the shared burden for the residents.

(We can debate later whether when you include the education costs if the higher density residential properties are a net plus.)

There are lots of inequities in the property tax if the city resident is only expected to be charged for the services they use. For example, only a tiny minority of the community uses the bus system yet we all pay for it. We can debate the amount the bus system should be subsidized, but I don’t see the mayor asking that the bus service be run entirely by user fees. Just as we recognize that bus transit might be a necessary good in our community that has to be provided by the government, we should also recognize that garbage collection is probably a necessary good that needs to be provided by the government. By the way, condo owners and apartment building owners benefit from the rest of the city properly disposing of the trash, too.

Interim City Administrator Steve Crandell confirmed Tuesday night that his recommendation is that residents would not be able to opt out of the city garbage collection and the garbage collection fee. If you have no alternative, then it’s a tax whether the city labels it that way or not.

Alderman Duane Paulson is the first alderman to announce he is opposed to the garbage collection fee. Alderman Andy Reiland, a finance committee member, is also opposed.

By the way, I believe this is the 2012 budget online, posted today finally.

Update! The common council finance committee will take up the garbage fee October 20th.

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