BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and the union representing the city's public works employees favor raising user fees to cover the full cost of solid waste collection rather than outsourcing it.
"I just wish they could raise the fee," said Jeremy Beutow, a 15-year public works employee and steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 699.
That would eliminate the stress once and for all for solid waste collection employees who worry about how yearly budget cuts will affect their jobs, said Beutow and AFSCME state representative Renee Nestler.
Designated as an enterprise fund in the city budget, solid waste collection is supposed to be self-funded by user fees, but the chronically insufficient revenue is projected to leave a $1.1 million gap in the $7.4 million program for fiscal 2019.
Renner said he sees the answer as "some version of trimming back bulk waste a little bit" and charging users the actual cost, which runs about $26 a month on average. Trash carts cost $16 to $25 per month, depending on the size.
A fee increase is one of the cost-saving options that Public Works Director Jim Karch has suggested the council consider.
"Alter the fee to fully cover the general fund subsidy," he said. "It doesn't have to be a flat fee. One of the options that can be considered is increasing the current tiered structure for fee collection."
The monthly fees currently are $16 for a 35-gallon cart, $21 for 65 gallons and $25 for 95 gallons. The fee includes at no additional cost curbside recycling, brush pickup and the first end-loader bucket of bulky waste every other week.
"You could increase the fee for the largest cart by $4, the middle cart by $4 and the smallest cart by $2," said Karch. "That first year, you would bridge that (revenue) gap and address the general fund subsidy."
With the enterprise fund designation in 2011, solid waste collection also was mandated to accumulate a 10 percent reserve. The fund has yet to break even, however.
Over the years, the city has increased its solid waste fees and reduced its service level to lessen the subsidy from ts property tax-based general fund.
"While we understand the city has to take measures to address the deficit, our members are tired of being the targets to balance or fix the budget issues," said Nestler.
"They provide a high quality and a high level of service, but the problem is the revenue has never paid for the cost."