How does a brand new $2.50 recycling availability fee get in the city manager’s recommended budget without the City Council discussing it?

It’s a really good question. At the two work sessions that the City Council held on recycling this year on Feb. 5 and April 1, the council discussed whether it would renegotiate the current contract with Republic Services or start all over with a request for proposals and bid process.

Field Operations Director Dale Wyrick strongly recommended renegotiating the current contract which has saved the city millions of dollars.  Wyrick also talked about how whatever the city did the cost of recycling was going to increase dramatically and it was reportedly mentioned but not discussed that a recycling fee might be considered.  There is no mention of a recycling fee in the minutes of either meeting. But City Council work sessions are somewhat informal and often more than one person is speaking, so it is entirely possible that a recycling fee was mentioned, but it was not a point of discussion.

If the City Council is considering a new fee for a service that city residents have been receiving at no charge for over 25 years, doesn’t it seem like that deserves public discussion?

Several Councilmembers said they didn’t know anything about the proposed recycling fee.  So for councilmembers left out of the loop and everyone else.  It is a $2.50 a month fee which will be added to what most people still refer to as their “water bill.”  It’s actually a city services bill and this $2.50 will be added to each bill, basically every household in Greensboro.

The fee will generate about $2.7 million a year and a penny on the tax rate generates about $2.8 million. One explanation is that the recommended tax increase was going to be 4 cents and it was decided that sounded too high. So instead of finding some unnecessary spending to cut, and there is a lot of that, whoever is running the show decided to cut the tax increase down to 3 cents and add this “recycling availability fee.”

The “availability” part is key because it means that even if  you don’t recycle, you still have to pay the fee because the service is made available to you.

Fees are viewed by many as hidden taxes if they are not tied to a particular use like the water and sewer fee.  If you own property that doesn’t have water and sewer service you don’t pay the fee. But whether you use the recycling service or not you have to pay the recycling availability fee.

It’s also regressive because whether you live in a $40,000 home and work for minimum wage or live in a $1 million dollar home and have an income in seven figures, you pay the same $2.50 for the availability of the recycling program.

It’s really nothing more than an additional $2.50 tax on every home in Greensboro.  Even if the city decides that you are not a responsible recycler and takes away your recycling bin, which the city plans to do a lot more of in the future, you still have to pay the fee.

In the presentation Wyrick gave at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 21 where a renegotiated contract with Republic Services to handle the recycling operation was approved by the City Council, there was no mention of a recycling availability fee to pay for the service.  Wyrick was asked a number of questions about the recycling contract, but nothing about a proposed fee to cover the additional costs.

The amount of money raised by the proposed $2.50 fee does not correspond to the amount of additional money the city is projected to spend on recycling next year.

According to the presentation given to the City Council in fiscal year 2019-2020 the additional cost to the city will be $1.1 million and in 2020-2021 it will be $1.5 million.  In 2021-2022 the cost levels out at $2.25 million.

It makes you wonder why the city is going to charge people $2.7 million next year for a program that will cost the city an additional $1.1 million.