Commissioners on Wednesday night were divided on an ordinance that would raise trash and recycling collection fees by 9 percent for 2013, but the board ultimately approved the rate hike, with five commissioners at the meeting voting against it.
The 9 percent increase will apply to the base fee for collection, the per-container fee and mini-can fee, but will not increase the cost for rear-yard collection, following an amendment that was proposed and passed during discussion Wednesday evening.
Lower Merion's system for garbage and recycling collection was revised in 2010 with the intention that collection fees and the reselling of recyclables would pay for the program entirely, said Chief Financial Officer Dean Dortone.
However, the going rate for recycled paper has dropped and the cost of disposing of commingled recyclables has skyrocketed, Dortone said in a previous presentation, stating that the township looks to lose $200,000 this year on garbage and recycling collection. Dortone told commissioners that a fee hike was necessary for the program to continue to pay for itself. A 9 percent increase would produce an additional $500,000 in revenue for the program.
In the course of discussion, it was proposed that other rates increase 9 percent, but rear-yard trash collection fees remain stable.
Commissioner Daniel Bernheim noted that even with the additional 9 percent increase, Lower Merion trash collection fees are still within the realm of normal. Plus, rear collection is a Lower Merion tradition, and because of the positioning of some homes, rear yard pickup is the only realistic option, so such homes should not be unduly penalized.
Commissioner Brian Gordon agreed, stating that rear-yard pickup preserves the look of the township.
Commissioners Lew Gould, Steve Lindner, Paul McElhaney, Philip Rosenzweig and Scott Zelov voted against the ordinance.
Referencing the $6.9 million in unanticipated revenue the township received last year, Gould said the township should not be raising fees to produce an additional $500,000 in revenue for trash collection.
Gould, McElhaney and Zelov viewed the increased fees for curbside pickup and stable rate for rear-yard pickup as essentially a subsidy for rear-yard trash collection. To do any subsidizing, Zelov said, was unwarranted and unfair to the rest of the township. Instead, more should be done to control costs, he said.
Ultimately, the board voted 8-5 to approve the collection fee increase for containers and base fees. Commissioner Jenny Brown was absent.
The rate changes are as follows:
- Base fee increases from $204 to $222
- Per container fee increases from $50 to $55
- Single container fee increases from $254 to $277
- Mini-can fee increases from $179 to $195
- Rear yard collection fee remains at $200