BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington residents will pay more for trash collection and a reduction in bulky waste pickup as part of a plan approved Monday to close a $1.1 million annual deficit in the solid waste disposal program.
The City Council voted 6-3 to levy a $4 increase for the two larger trash carts, effective May 1. The new monthly rates will be $25 for the 65-gallon cart and $29 for the 95-gallon cart, but the $16 per month fee for the 35-gallon cart remains unchanged.
Beginning May 1, 2019, the per-cart monthly fee will increase 3 percent a year for every cart size. Discounts for low-income residents will remain.
After the council struggled for years with how to end city subsidies for the program that was supposed to pay for itself through user fees, the vote Monday drew applause from some in the audience.
"How many hours in the past five years (has the council) spent talking about trash? ... There are other, bigger-picture concerns I think we could be worried about," said Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy before the vote.
"I don't think we will find a perfect solution," said Ward 3 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe before voting for the proposal. "I don't want to tinker too much with what staff has offered. I would like to move forward once and for all and have (Public Works Director) Jim (Karch) promise us that he will not come back with more trash talk."
The council also approved reductions in the frequency of bulky waste collections. Free pickup at the curb of the first end-loader bucket of bulky waste every other week now will be limited to once in the spring and and once in the fall.
In between pickups, residents still will be able to dispose of bulky waste for free at the city's drop-off center, which will have extended hours. Residents also will be able to request curbside collection of bulky waste for $25 per end-loader bucket.
Garbage will be collected weekly and recycling and brush will be picked up every other week, all at no additional change.
Ward 2 Alderman Dave Sage, Ward 5 Alderman Joni Painter and Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt cast the dissenting votes.
Painter favored an option that called for a flat fee of $26 for all users, regardless of cart size. Sage and Schmidt said they were OK with a $4 fee increase, but opposed the 3 percent automatic annual increase.
Current projections show the fee increase will result in $894,672 in additional revenue in fiscal 2019, but the reduced bulky waste service level is expected to result in a $250,000 cost reduction in solid waste program. Those changes are expected to eliminate the need for a subsidy in from the city's general fund.
The 3 percent annual increase would help build a reserve fund, Karch said.
"It seems to me that we shouldn't just assume that we're going to build that reserve on the backs of our residents," said Schmidt.
She and Sage said they wanted to see other modifications, including requiring more landlords to remove bulky waste left by tenants, that Karch plans to bring to the council in the near future.
Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen presented to the council Monday night a proposed fiscal 2019 budget of about $208 million — which is about $6 million less in both revenue and spending than this year's budget.
The fiscal 2018 budget called for $214 million in revenue and spending, and the city previously had been using that same figure for fiscal 2019, which will begin May 1. Rasmussen attributed the reduced figures for revenue and spending mainly to differences in accounting from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019.
While the latest fiscal 2019 numbers are lower, the projected deficit of $2.9 million remains. The solid waste program shortfall makes up about a third of that.
A public hearing on the budget is slated for March 12, and the council could approve the budget on April 9. The deadline to adopt the budget is April 30.