The City provides curb-side pick up of trash, recyclables and compostables. These services are paid for out of a dedicated solid waste millage. Bulk leaf and Christmas tree pick up were also funded by that millage. This year, city residents will pay about $11 million dollars in solid waste millage to the city.
The solid waste millage was so high in the recent past that it generated a surplus of about $8 million dollars. The city could have lowered the millage and used that surplus to maintain services. Instead, it used about $6 million to convert to a single stream recycling process. That new system was supposed to save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Think about that. We were generating a surplus, then we started saving hundreds of thousands but somehow we ended up not being able to afford bulk leaf pick up, Christmas tree pick up or our composting operations.
Shouldn't the excess that we were paying (that supplied that surplus) and the savings from single stream recycling cover the reduced solid waste millage revenue caused by declining property values? Why are we cutting the very popular and not very expensive leaf and tree pick ups?
The recycling process has expanded to accept materials from outside the area that pays our solid waste millage. The privatization of the composting facility is intended to expand the areas from which we accept compostable materials. We have spent significant amounts of our solid waste tax revenues improving recycling and composting facilities, which in turn will benefit areas that did not contribute to the cost of those improvements.
At the same time that we are providing the infrastructure for other communities to recycle and compost, we are shedding municipal employees. They will be replaced by low-wage, no-benefit private sector workers so that the private companies can make a profit. What is the impact on a community when jobs are degraded, like this?
The problems with the compost facility did not arise for lack of good employees. Much like the city's parking system, the problem arises from poor management. The city could not break even on its parking system, but now it is the cash cow that fills the financial void created by mismanagement. Parking needed better management, not different hourly workers. The same is true about recycling and composting. City employees could staff those operations effectively, if the administration had managers who could effectively oversee the operations.
The city should be contracting out its management functions and retaining its hourly employees.