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Published: Monday, 8/10/2009

Group opposes Toledo refuse fee increase

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The political group calling itself Teamwork Toledo came out Sunday against a proposed increase in the city's refuse collection fee - even if it is coupled with a prospective recycling rewards incentive program under which residents can get coupons and gift certificates.

"Let's reduce another waste stream instead. Cut city government waste some more - reach for the budget book again and take another look to find the $8 million needed instead of trying to reach into our wallets again," said Tricia Lyons, one of the five in the coalition seeking seats on Toledo City Council this fall.

Council could vote Aug. 18 on Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's request to increase the trash fee to $10 a month from $8.50 for those who don't recycle and to $7 a month from $1 for those who do.

Council members received a letter from the mayor Saturday criticizing them for not approving the fee increase months ago, as well as his plan to generate millions by cutting the 100 percent tax credit given to Toledo residents who work and pay taxes in other locales.

Kevin Milliken, leader of Teamwork Toledo, said the group offered an idea in June to streamline city government and cut expenses by turning the city's parks over to the Toledo Area Metroparks.

"That idea fell on deaf ears," Mr. Milliken said during a news conference yesterday in front of One Government Center.

"There is never a good time to raise taxes on Toledoans," he said. "Now, during an economic downtown, is certainly the worst time to even consider it. Add to that a new proposal that would make city government even bigger - with more rules, regulations, and red tape - and it's just more reason to reject it."

The increase in the trash fee would generate an additional $700,000 in 2009 and $3 million in 2010 over the $4.6 million collected through the existing fee structure. The city's 2009 general fund deficit is about $8.9 million.

John Adams, Jr., a third member of Teamwork Toledo, said it would be "political suicide" if a council candidate supported the trash fee increase.

Council President Joe McNamara and Councilman Steven Steel - who are both up for election this year - opposed the trash fee until they suggested the recycling rewards incentive program be added to the legislation.

Last week, council heard a presentation from RecycleBank, a company that establishes reward programs in numerous cities throughout the country. The company tracks the tonnage of recycling along a route and assigns points to the weight. The average Toledoan could receive $240 a year worth of incentives for participating in the program.

Representatives from RecycleBank told council the cost to the city for the program would be $6 to $8 per household per year.

Council has set aside $3.9 million of 2009 capital improvement funding in anticipation of voters next month approving the "safety first plan" so it could apply that money to reduce the 2009 deficit to about $5 million. The plan would change the allocation of revenue from Toledo's payroll tax to allow more to be spent on police and fire services.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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