The Verdict is in on Bloomington's Trash Collection Fees

 Ward 4 Alderwoman Amelia Buragas made a motion Monday night to approve changes to fees and services for the City's solid waste collection. Aldermen passed the motion with a 6-3 vote.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Amelia Buragas made a motion Monday night to approve changes to fees and services for the City's solid waste collection. Aldermen passed the motion with a 6-3 vote.

Some Bloomington residents will see their garbage fees increase beginning this spring.

Aldermen voted 6-3 Monday night to enact a $4.00 monthly fee increase for the 65-gallon and 95-gallon carts starting May 1, 2018. There will be no change for the 35-gallon carts this year, but fees for all three cart sizes will be subject to a 3% continual annual increase beginning next year.

The vote also means the City will move to free spring and fall bulk waste collection, with a $25 per-bucket fee for on-demand pickup. Residents can still make unlimited free drop-offs at the 402 S. East Street facility, which will include extended hours. Brush collection services won’t change.

The ordinance is part of City efforts to close its $2.9M projected budget deficit. The fee and service level changes will recoup $1.1M for the upcoming fiscal year. City staff billed the ordinance as a “medium service level, medium fee increase” option among three suggested ordinances presented Monday.

Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch said the 3% annual increase included in the ordinance would help the City account for for future cost increases rather than just bridge the one-year gap.

While user fees are supposed to pay for the City’s solid waste service as an enterprise fund, that’s never been the case in the seven years since the fund was established, said Karch.

At first, Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black opposed the 3% annual increase, which he felt may disincentivize staff from seeking greater efficiencies. “I want to show the public we’re serious about how we’re going to look at our program to find every little nickel-and-dime, nook-and-cranny savings we possibly can.”

Ultimately, Alderman Black supported the original motion as a “fair compromise” addressing the need to pay for services without burdening low-income residents. “In my mind, if you are producing more trash, you should pay for it,” he said in favor of keeping the $16 monthly 35-gallon cart fee.

Black also said the lower fee for smaller carts helps encourage residents to produce less trash. The idea is in line with suggestions included in the 20-year solid waste management plan the aldermen adopted later that evening.

Ward 6 Alderwoman Karen Schmidt, Ward 2 Alderman David Sage and Ward 5 Alderwoman Joni Painter opposed the ordinance.

“Your reasons are compelling for why we should build a reserve...but it seems to me that we shouldn’t just assume we’re going to build that reserve on the backs of our residents,” Schmidt said, addressing Karch.

Both Schmidt and Sage told Karch they’d prefer to continue exploring other ways to help the City pay for the service, including a new structure for assessing fees to landlords for apartment cleanouts.

Painter opposed the ordinance’s tiered fee system as well as making any changes to the City’s bulk waste pickup. “When we considered privatizing, most everybody I heard from loved our garbage service and they want to have bulk collection every other week.”

Karch said the City staff still plans to bring back ideas to address bulk waste pickup at apartments, as well as look at department changes to increase efficiencies.