Solid waste budget gets additional cash to avoid trash rate hike
Millions saved during summer strike diverted to garbage department
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Oct. 28 for Town Crier.)
Call it the garbage fee hike that never was.
Toronto city council couldn’t stomach implementing a proposed two percent increase for trash fees so soon after a strike that saw garbage collection suspended for 39 days.
The fee would generate an additional $4.8 million for the solid waste management department to implement additional waste diversion programs such as additional reuse centres for old mattresses and furniture to be recycled or sold rather than tossed in landfill. The proposed fee hike would have meant an additional $4-8 per bin depending on the size.
But instead of raising garbage rates, the city approved using $4.8 million out of the $36.1 million “saved” during this summer’s strike for the garbage department’s 2010 budget to hold the line on fees. Various other options were debated at city council including using about $5 million to issue rebates of $20-53 dollars per household as a gesture for loss of garbage collection.
Other options included rolling the entire strike savings into general revenues to help the city balance its 2010 operating budget.
In the end it was a motion by Councillor Karen Stintz that prompted the discussion of using nearly $5 million in strike savings to offset the trash fee hike. And it was quite the coup for Stintz, a fierce opponent of Mayor David Miller, to get enough votes to pass her recommendation.
In the end the vote was 22-19 in favour of her suggestion.
“It was the right outcome,” Stintz said after the decision on Oct. 27. “We held the line on fees next year.”
“I think my colleagues were feeling we did owe the public something out of the strike,” she said.
Geoff Rathbone, general manager for Solid Waste Management, told the Town Crier, “It’s pretty clearly council’s direction that the $4.8 million be reallocated to offset the two percent increase.”
He said the next step will likely be to introduce that change to SWM’s 2010 budget process at the Executive Committee’s Nov. 2 meeting and then to subsequent budget and council sessions.
The budget has yet to be approved, so all kinds of further amendments may take place before the budget is finalized.
But as it stands now – there will be no rate hike for garbage next year.