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Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

Talking Trash


What are the city’s options?

What progress has been made on Shreveport garbage fees?

None. In mid-January, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins proposed a Clean City User fee of $12 per month. This revenue was to increase wages for sanitation workers and beef up the city’s depleted reserves. The fee would be collected as part of city water bills.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, the Shreveport City Council voted down the mayor’s proposal at their Feb. 12 meeting. So now it’s the Council’s turn to deal with the pressing issues.

So, what options are available? The first is not a good one. That is, for the council to do nothing and put their collective heads in the sand. It’s doubtful this course of action will be taken.

The second is to find a pot of gold somewhere. The cost to the city for the sanitation department is in excess of $8 million per year. The city reserves are approximately $3 million. They should be at least $15 million.

Unfortunately, no fiscal rainbows are in sight, much less predicted. Wringing this kind of money out of the city’s $500 million budget is a herculean, if not impossible, task.

That leaves two options or a combination of them: Set a monthly garbage fee or ask for a sales tax increase.

A garbage fee could be set as soon as March 12. A sales tax referendum could not be scheduled until mid-year. In all likelihood, it would appear on the October primary election ballot.

There has been some discussion among council members of setting a garbage fee for one year and then calling for a sales tax increase to become effective Jan. 1 of next year.

Any garbage fee ordinance must specify if the fees will go to the city’s general fund or an enterprise fund. Some concern has been expressed that money directed to the general fund could be spent on other budget line items. Since the council sets the city’s budget, these concerns are probably overstated.

The implementation of an enterprise fund requires all fees to be directed to that particular fund. This option also requires that all expenses for the sanitation department be paid from these revenues.

Thus, wages, insurance, equipment repair and replacement, and other costs would be assessed to this fund. Concerns have been raised as to the sufficiency of any fee to fully support the cost of the sanitation department from the proposed enterprise fund.

The city has 66,000-plus water consumers. Calculations based on a garbage fee attached to city water bills are made utilizing this number.

A garbage fee would be collected from city water consumers. A sales tax would be collected from all persons purchasing items within the city limits. Arguments have been made on the pros and cons of a garbage fee versus a sales tax increase.

Assuming the council takes some action to raise revenue from garbage pick-up services, the “savings” to the city’s budget could then be directed to increasing the city’s reserves. How much relief this would provide depends on the amount of the fee and when it would commence.

Although not directly related, many questions have been directed to the continuance of the city’s $2.50 recycling fee. These moneys are paid to Republic Services to collect and deliver the contents of the blue recycling bins to Pratt Industries at the Port.

Pratt only recycles paper and cardboard and sends the remainder to the DeSoto Parish landfill. Pratt charges Republic a fee to dump at their facility. This fee is more than Pratt pays to dump the leftovers from the recycling bins at the DeSoto.

The city has a contract with Republic to pick up the contents of the blue bins for delivery to Pratt. This was a threeyear contract which expires in October of next year. The general public consensus is to discontinue any recycling effort and to apply the monthly fee to garbage pickup. But unless the Republic contract is terminated at an earlier date, this idea provides no immediate relief to the current financial problem.

Bossier charges households $22 per month and businesses $28 per month on their water bills. Shreveport is one of the few mid-sized cities in the nation that does not charge for garbage pick-up services. This reality has seemingly been lost on the majority of citizens protesting any garbage fees.

John Settle’s articles appear in local publications and on his blog Settletalk.com. His email is john@jesettle.com.


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