The third time may not be the charm for Shreveporters and paying for garbage pickup.
Democrat new Mayor Adrian Perkins has proposed an $18 per month charge for providing this service. Such a fee, which almost all medium-and-above-sized cities charge – and all do in Louisiana, with larger cities’ levying months bills from $16 to $36 – Perkins says could go to shoring up low sanitation worker wages (some defected recently to Bossier City’s new private contractor) as well as pad the city’s reserves.
Shreveport has gone down this road before. Almost a decade ago, it levied a $2.50 per month assessment, only to have a disappointed citizenry successfully lobby the City Council to remove that within a couple of months. In 2016, the previous administration included a $12 monthly fee in its 2017 budget, only to have to withdraw that ignominiously after a public backlash.
Keep in mind that Shreveporters continue sheepishly to pay $2.50 every month, plus root through their own garbage, for the privilege of having curbside recycling, which hasn’t come close to paying for itself even with the subsidy. After a decade of that, this possibly has prejudiced the citizenry against having to pay anything for a related service.
With only a minor portion of the proposed revenue going to fund salaries, eyebrows have raised over the plan to divert the majority to reserves. It smacks of a similar plan over a decade ago in Bossier City, where the city used increases in its water/sewerage/solid waste charge to offset losses in emergency services and maintenance.
That was noxious then because citizens paid a fee designed to fund one thing only to have that diverted to an unrelated function, blurring accountability and disingenuously obscuring the true costs of services from the public. It’s even more noxious now across the river because most of the proposed assessment would not be tied to any discrete government function, making it more like a tax than anything else. Nor, apparently, would government perform any function using it in the here and now; in fact, the money gathered could sit unused in perpetuity, there only, in Perkins’ words, to help the city gain a higher bond rating that leads to paying less interest on debt.
Nor has Perkins reviewed alternatives, such as charging lower and only pumping those proceeds into solid waste collection, or privatizing as has Bossier City. It seems clear his desired fee really functions as a backdoor tax increase which, for political purposes, looks better as a fee because then he can claim – largely fraudulently in this case – that it goes to pay for a discrete service rendered.
The City Council should put an end to these shenanigans. If it joins in wanting to increase reserves, it should do so transparently. If it wants to hike fees only to fund trash pickup, it should set a much lower fee. Even if flummoxed on the recycling fee, Shreveporters have showed they resist trifling with on this issue, and may revolt yet again if the Council backs Perkins trying to go whole hog.