October 9, 2013

Logansport budget set to nix trash fees

Fees replaced with $975,000 budget allocation

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Efforts are in place to nix trash pickup fees for Logansport residents, though city council members still disagree over whether the increased taxes used to make up for it will truly lead to savings.

For the first time since 2010, the city does not have plans to pay off its contract with Wabash Valley Refuse with user fees and instead has opted to allocate $975,000 in its 2014 budget toward trash pickup for residents.

Trash pickup fees are currently set at $10 a month and are billed through Logansport Municipal Utilities.

Logansport City Councilman Bob Bishop praised the decision after the council adopted the 2014 budget earlier this week.

“We have plenty of money to do it,” he said of eliminating the fees. “We’re in very good financial shape.”

But the decision wasn’t unanimous. Logansport City Councilwoman Teresa Popejoy said she felt it would be better to keep the costs on users rather than put it on those paying property taxes.

“I thought it was more equitable to to have it paid by users because there are a number of individuals who don’t pay property taxes,” Popejoy said.

With the city hitting its 1 percent residential property tax cap for next year, the budget included a $40 increase in property taxes, which goes toward the $975,000 allocated for trash pickup fees. However, because customers were paying $120 a year for trash pickup, Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said the difference would ultimately result in savings of about $80 per household next year.

Franklin added the city hit its 2 percent rental and 3 percent business property tax caps four out of the last four years. Budgets instated property tax caps three out of the last four, with 2013 being the outlier.

He said it was important to get back up to the property tax cap this year to ensure taxes paid by Logansport citizens stayed within the city and weren’t absorbed by other government bodies.

“People are going to hit their property tax cap regardless,” Franklin said. “This is just one way the city basically ensures we provide the services we’re supposed to provide.”

Another reason officials said they wanted to eliminate trash pickup fees was the power plant currently being negotiated with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Pyrolyzer LLC that will run on refuse-derived fuel.

Because the plant will require 4,000 to 6,000 tons of trash a day, officials say Pyrolyzer will be picking up the new commodity sitting on people’s curbs every week for free.

Since the earliest the plant is expected to be up and running is within the next two years, Popejoy had concerns using it as a justification in a 2014 budget.

“There’s no contract in place at this point in time for Pyrolyzer or any other services of that kind,” she said. “The earliest is 18 months to two years down the road. I don’t know how other people do their budget, but I don’t do mine based on two years down the road.”

The Public Works Committee of city council will meet at 5 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chambers of the Logansport City Building, 601 E. Broadway, to discuss legislation that would eliminate the trash fees.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK