Column: An alternative funding solution for city
Commentary by Mayor John Ditslear
As we worked on next year’s budget for the past several months, one thing became clear with our present financial constraints – we need to look at the possibility of implementing a trash fee. After a closer review of the numbers, possibly became a reality. The Noblesville Common Council has begun talking about considering an implementation of a trash fee for Noblesville residents. While I know all new fees are unwelcomed, it is important that I share the background to be transparent to our residents and why I support the change.
How did we get to this point?
From 2010 to projections for 2016, Noblesville has lost $30,420,314 because of property tax caps. In that same time frame, the city has not had a significant increase in operating funding. Last year, we requested a budget to be passed in the red in order to add more public safety personnel – and used a portion of our Rainy Day Fund. That budget is now in the black but the city would be financially irresponsible to continuously use cash to support the budget.
How will it impact you?
The trash fee being proposed is $10.57 per residence, per month. That equates to $126.84 per year – the actual cost for the city of each residence. The average trash fee for Hamilton County is around $12.50 and one area requires citizens to contract their own removal.
I know we have some residents who live on a fixed income or receive a reduction on their property taxes. As the city does with their wastewater bill, these residents would be eligible to receive a 50 percent discount on their monthly trash bills.
What it means?
The trash fee is needed to accommodate the request of adding four new police officers to our department. Public safety is the community’s No. 1 issue and I want to ensure we have the numbers needed as our community continues to grow.
We also plan to use the fee for infrastructure needs. As the city increases its road mileage we must provide funds to maintain those improvements. If the surfacing budget is affected, it could mean that five to 10 roads that we plan to address next year will have to wait. Right now, we are looking at losing $500,000 for resurfacing – not including pothole, storm sewer, sidewalk repairs and resurfacing of our alleys, which have not been done since 1995.
If not now?
Budget issues unfortunately are not a new issue. The city, its departments and the Common Council have done its best job running a lean government; however, the city needs the funds to continue moving forward. It allows money for a number of needed projects and expected services. In 2017, we will need to address understaffing within our departments.
There will be a ripple effect if we cannot get this passed. The city has always paid for residents to have trash and recycling for free. If a fee is not implemented, the city will be forced to cut the amount from our current services, which may include brush pick-up, tree planting, sidewalk repair and street projects.