Trash collection fee dumped

Posted: March 09, 2009

Mayor Nutter yesterday trashed the controversial sanitation fee that his administration had been considering to help close a massive budget shortfall.

"I yesterday made a decision that we're not going to move forward with the trash fee, and it's off the table for [next year's] budget," Nutter said. "I decided on Saturday, from a timing standpoint, that this is not the time to try to do this."

Nutter, who is set to introduce his budget on March 19, must close a $1 billion budget shortfall over the next five years.

The idea of generating revenue through a trash fee was first floated several weeks ago by Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler.

Cutler first said that the city was considering a $5 flat rate per household. Then last week, she said that due to negative feedback over the flat rate, the city was considering a small household fee based on income coupled with a weekly per-bag charge.

Charging trash fees could generate upwards of $400 million over five years, Nutter said. Many cities charge a sanitation fee, including Seattle, San Francisco and Kansas City. But many local citizens complained about being burdened with an additional fee.

Nutter said that he was concerned that the plan was not fully developed enough. He also stressed that he had heard citizen complaints about the fee.

"I certainly want to make it clear, I've listened to citizens and their concerns, many of them practical concerns," Nutter said. "I think the public outreach process has been very, very beneficial to us. To me and to the entire administration. We're getting real-time information and feedback."

Nutter said that a trash fee will not appear either in the upcoming budget or the city's five-year financial plan. But, he said that he might revisit the idea in the future.

"It's very clear to me from a pure idea standpoint, this is a very interesting idea," Nutter said. "It's something that needs further exploration and analysis. It's something that I'm not prepared to do right now."

Taking the trash fee off the table means that the administration will have to hunt for other ways to close the budget gap, Nutter said, including looking at tax hikes.

"Four hundred million dollars is a lot of money," Nutter said. "Of course, all of the various tax measures are on the table for discussion. This does have serious financial implications for how we "

But Nutter - a longtime advocate of lowering Philadelphia's tax burden to make the city more competitive - repeated that he is loath to touch wage or business taxes.

While a trash fee is off the table for now, Nutter said that he hoped to seek ways to increase recycling rates in Philadelphia. *

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