A controversial trash fee has been removed from the city of Troy's 2018 budget proposal.
When Troy Mayor Patrick Madden revealed his $73.6 million spending plan back in October, he pledged to restore services that had been severely cut back the year before, and promised better maintenance of streets and parks. He noted that with solid waste management fees incorporated into the budget proposal, taxes would increase barely above 1 percent.
Madden warned of dramatic increases in tipping fees for solid waste disposal, as local landfills reach capacity over the coming years. His budget plan sought to replace the current $29 recycling fee with a solid waste disposal fee based on a combined cost of solid waste disposal and recycling and assessed per unit. The fee, pegged at $190 a year per residential unit, would rise or fall based on the city's actual cost for solid waste disposal. The first-term Democrat says "it's more than just a fee." "It's about changing our relationship with solid waste in the city. We do a very poor job of recycling relative to other communities across the state and we're trying to change the M.O. here in Troy."
From the get-go, Republican Common Council President Carmella Mantello branded the fee "a hidden tax," even as state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office weighed in. "If you read the comptroller's letter, and I attended a budget review with the comptroller's office, it did say that the new revenue is predicated on a trash fee which has not been passed by the council yet. The comptroller's office will never say that that's required, whatever, they'll weigh in and basically ensure that the administration, the council is aware that this revenue is based on a proposal that was never passed by the council. And more importantly, the mayor never had the legal authority to propose a garbage fee, as our code specifically states that you cannot charge the people of Troy for garbage. And the reason that is is the taxpayers and the residents of Troy are already paying for that under their tax bill."
Last week, the council nixed Madden's proposal for a garbage collection fee. "I am in favor, long-term, looking at a 'pay as you throw,' which would incentivize recycling. The mayor's proposal is by fee and it has a three-year life cycle, and essentially the mayor is asking the council 'Give me three years to develop this pay as you generate and we'll work at it long-term.’"
Madden says his proposed fee would have netted $3.45 million in revenue, canceling out a nearly $3 million deficit for 2018. "The council is going through its process of trying to decide what they like about my budget, what they don't like about it. Under our charter, I present a budget to them and then they have by December 1st, they have to either adopt that budget or amend and adopt a different budget. So we're in the thick of that process now."
Madden is hopeful the council will come to some sort of agreement. "If there is not a trash fee or a substitute of some sort then we have to decide what we are going to stop doing, what service we are going to stop providing, so that we can make up that shortfall."
Mantello says the council is scheduled to vote Tuesday. "If the mayor's budget goes down tomorrow, the mayor's budget would essentially go into effect and allow the mayor to maybe work with the new majority which he supported throughout the election. So the incoming council could potentially have to work on the budget but ultimately the council tomorrow night is scheduled to vote on the budget, and so if the budget goes down the mayor's budget will go into effect, but the mayor will have to work on that $3 million revenue which was pie-in-the-sky because the council had never voted on a trash fee prior to the budget."