published Friday, June 15th, 2012

East Ridge council OKs budget, trash fee

East Ridge Councilman Darwin Branam
East Ridge Councilman Darwin Branam
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

GARBAGE FEE

• $180 for residential properties

• $240 for properties assessed as commercial (including duplexes)

• $60 for every additional can, with a limit of four cans.

A $180 garbage fee will now be tacked onto East Ridge property tax bills this fall, replacing the monthly fees residents once paid on their water bills.

The three councilmen who voted to pass the measure before their final budget vote Tuesday night said that creating the separate flat fee was better than raising property taxes to make up for it.

But resident Larry Clarkson called the decision a regrettable, saying it would have been healthier for the city and citizens alike if the garbage fee was just absorbed the property tax.

"I think [the fee] should have always been taken from the tax," he said. "We had a chance to correct that, and I'm just sorry that we didn't."

Councilmen Darwin Branam and Larry Sewell both stood staunchly against the yearly fee, agreeing that garbage service should have never had a separate tax in the first place.

Officials had estimated that about 84 percent of city residents would actually have seen a tax break if the garbage fee had been absorbed into property taxes because of the amount at which their properties are assessed.

For months, councilmen have been struggling with how to collect the garbage fees -- which provide $1.4 million in revenue -- after Tennessee American Water decided they would no longer attach the fee on residents' water bills.

Some councilmen expressed concern that there would be a "double tax" on residents who had already paid $90 worth of fees on their water bills.

But City Attorney John Anderson said that the city could not afford to lessen the initial fee, since property taxes are collected at the end of the year and the city had to have money to provide the service until then.

"You would have a $700,000 deficit that you could not recover from if you do not collect the full fee this year," he said.

Those who own properties assessed as commercial will pay $240 annually for the fee -- plus $60 for every additional trash can.

An apartment complex that just wants to use Dumpsters instead will still have to pay the city's fee.

East Ridge will be paying Hamilton County $35,000 to collect the garbage fee, in addition to 2 percent of all property taxes collected in the city.

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