Mayor Rawlings-Blake is proposing charging Baltimore City residents a "fee" for trash collection. The idea is that if we have to start paying a "fee" to have our trash collected that somehow this will enable the city to reduce the property tax and thus attract more people to move here.
The assumption is that somehow we have been getting our trash collected for free all these years. Who would have thunk it?
The fact is that Baltimore City residents pay for their services through property taxes, local taxes, and a whole lot of other "fees" that can be found on our telephone, cable, and water bills.
So let's get this notion that we have been getting some kind of bargain on trash collection out of the way right now.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Mayor said many areas surrounding the city have fees for trash collection that are not part of their property taxes.
Well, that is not entirely accurate.
You can call it a "fee" or a "tax," but either way, there it is on the bill.
Also, residents in Anne Arundel County can opt-out of having the county collect their trash, if a majority of residents in a community agree.
Is the Mayor going to seriously propose that city residents can opt-out of trash collection? I mean, some people apparently already do opt-out, but will this be a city policy?
But the most glaring problem with the Mayor's plan is that Baltimore City trash collectors are union city employees (AFSCME Local Council 67). Both Howard and Anne Arundel counties contract their trash collection out. (I could not get a definitive answer on whether the actual sanitation workers are county employees or union, but I suspect not.)
Again, does Mayor Rawlings-Blake really think the city can compete with the surrounding areas on the cost to collecting trash while keeping the sanitation workers on as city employees at union wages?
I doubt it can be done.
And, an even more intriguing question is, will Mayor Rawlings-Blake actually jettison AFSCME Local Council 67, who supported her during her mayoral campaign and contract out the city trash collection? Again, I think not (and I hope not).
The fact is that in order for Baltimore City to seriously compete with the surrounding counties we would have to fire all the sanitation workers who collect our trash and contract the services out. Otherwise I don't see how adding a fee for a service we already pay for in taxes is going to lower those said taxes. It just isn't logical.
So, I am calling this proposed "fee" what is really is - a Trash Tax.
I also have my doubts that we'll actually see property taxes reduced based on the Trash Tax. And, remember, once the Trash Tax is imposed, they can (and will) raise it.
The only way I will be sold on this idea is if our property tax is reduced immediately and in proportion to whatever the Trash tax is.
I do have one alternative the mayor hasn't mentioned. Instead of adding a new Trash Tax, or fee, or whatever you want to call it, why not just make it a goal to lower property taxes by, say, thirty cents over ten years, instead of the proposed fifty cents? Either way, the taxes and fees city residents pay will still be astronomically higher than the surrounding areas and they will continue to sufficiently keep people moving into other jurisdiction other than Baltimore City.