Toledo City Council last night lowered the city's controversial monthly trash fee and discussed - in the near future - taking a separate vote on a fine for people who dump garbage into their blue recycling containers.
Council voted 9-3 to cut the across-the-board $15-a-month fee to $5 for seniors with homestead exemptions and who recycle; $8.50 for other Toledoans who recycle, and $15 for those Toledoans who do not recycle.
That fee structure was originally proposed in a memo by the Bell administration in mid-April to enact if voters approved Issue 5 at the polls - which they did. That measure allows the city to reallocate its 0.75 percent income tax and use money from the capital improvement budget to support the general fund.
But this month the administration proposed that council approve a fee that was still lower than the $15 month fee but did not offer any monetary incentive to keep recycling - $5 a month for senior citizens who have a homestead exemption and $10 for everyone else.
Councilman Steven Steel was among those on council who dis-agreed with that switch.
"Many residents saw this as a promise as what would happen if Issue 5 passed," Mr. Steel said. "To my mind, that was a pledge. That was a promise."
Councilman Joe McNamara, who supported Mr. Steel last night, said abandoning the fee offered by Mayor Mike Bell and the city in the April memo would erode the city's credibility.
Councilmen Tom Waniewski, D. Michael Collins, and Lindsay Webb voted against the change.
The trio had supported other fee structures that were also lower than the $15 a month fee.
After a lengthy debate and votes on three different fee structures, Mr. Bell said he was "accepting of the Democratic process" and would make the current fee work to keep the city's general fund balanced.
Assuming 58 percent of Toledoans recycle, the Bell administration's plan of $5 for seniors with homestead exemptions and $10 for all others would have generated $9,309,858 in 2010 and $9,530,400 in 2011.
The plan council did approve - the $5 homestead for seniors who recycle, $8.50 for those who recycle, and $15 for nonrecyclers - will generate $9,916,776 in 2010 and $10,570,832 in 2011.
Council rejected a plan offered by Mr. Waniewski to charge $5 for seniors with homestead exemptions, $10 for all others until June, 2011, when it would then be $5 for recyclers and $10 for nonrecyclers, keeping the $5 homestead rate.
Council also rejected Mr. Collins' plan to charge $8 for recyclers until June, 2012, when they would pay $3, and $15 for nonrecyclers until June, 2012, when they would begin paying $10. The two years of higher payments would include payments to cover the cost of the two containers the city purchased for every household.
Regarding the proposed fines for improperly placing trash in the blue recycling containers, Mr. Collins and Mr. Ludeman said it should be enacted.
Mr. Ludeman proposed the city "levy heavy fines."
The city's recycling operation was shut down for a day recently because so many people had placed garbage in the receptacles meant exclusively for items like bottles, cans, newspaper, and cardboard.
Mr. Bell said he would leave the fine amount up to council.
Council last night also voted to end the increased income tax charged to people who live in Toledo but work outside the city, which the mayor promised as well if Issue 5 was successful.
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