Sparks are beginning to fly as Collar City leaders and the public review Troy Mayor Patrick Madden's proposed 2018 city budget.
Madden, a first-term Democrat, revealed his 2018 budget proposal Friday afternoon. The $73.6 million spending plan comes in under the state tax cap.
Madden, mindful of last year's budget brouhaha, where initial plans for a 28.2 percent property tax hike shocked residents, says Troy isn't out of the woods yet, but things are looking up: he's pledged to restore services that had been severely cut back in the 2017 budget, and promised better maintenance of streets and parks. "With the solid waste management fees incorporated into the budget proposal, the tax increase called for is 1.174 percent, which is under the state imposed cap and equates to $2.03 per month for a home assessed at $150,000."
Madden warned of dramatic increases in tipping fees for solid waste disposal, as local landfills reach capacity over the coming years. His budget plan outlines a solution: "The present recycling fee will be replaced with a solid waste disposal fee. The fee, based on a combined cost of solid waste disposal and recycling, will be assessed on a per-unit basis and will rise or fall based on the city's actual cost for solid waste disposal. This design achieves two important objectives. It begins to more closely tie the use of a service to the cost a property owner pays for that service. So, for example, a three-unity property will pay more for solid waste disposal than a single-family home. Additionally, as the fee is based on the actual cost to the city, a strong incentive is created to either recycle or reduce unnecessary waste. The less we put in the waste stream, the lower our tipping fees will be."
Madden says there will be exemptions for Enhanced STAR recipients and properties that currently utilize paid private collection services. "At present we anticipate the annual solid waste disposal fee to be $190 per residential unit. That's a $161 per year increase over the current recycling fee."
Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello attended the budget presentation Friday. "I'm pleased to see that that's under the tax cap. But the fee? Certainly, um, ah, we are going to have to look at the particular legislation, because when you talk about lower tax increases and higher fees, you really have to take a second look at that fee. So we'll take a look at the legislation, we'll look at the details. I'm walking over right now to get my copy of the budget. I certainly wanna take a look at what's been proposed in terms of revenues at 1 Monument Square, so the devil will be in the details."
Late Sunday afternoon, Mantello cc'd reporters on an email to Madden, explaining she had reviewed "the city code for solid waste collection. The code is clear that 'no fee shall be charged for the collection and disposal of garbage, rubbish or yard wastes.'" She questioned "How can $2,905,000 for the new garbage fee be included in the proposed budget under the present city code?"
“There is no legislation that the council has to amend that code, and quite frankly, I don’t support a garbage fee. So we’ll see where this goes. Wednesday evening is a finance meeting. We encourgage folks to come down to city hall. That’ll be the first of many public meetings, public hearings, committee meetings over the next several weeks,” Mantello stated.
GOP City Councilman Mark McGrath says the budget is fact-based. "Certainly the garbage fee or the trash fee is a concern. I was with the mayor Friday night at a function. And I explained to him that because the city falls under the tax cap, the municipality will receive a rebate from the state. Now, him and I both don't know what that is, but he's gonna look into it tomorrow with the city comptroller, 'cause that would certainly help offset the garbage fee.”
McGrath says he doesn’t believe the city code holds up. "I don't. Sometimes I'm one of the mayor's biggest critics. But when it comes to his comptroller and the way they craft their budgets, I have to give them credit."
Madden answered a request for comment via email, stating "the fee would require a simple legislative change. Not an impediment. We'll go over all that in the scheduled Council hearings."
The council is reviewing the $73.6 million plan and will likely make amendments.