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NF City Council to make final decision on garbage user fee

Fee remains unpopular with residents but leaders say it is needed
Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 19:08:41-05

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The idea of a garbage user fee for Niagara Falls residents has never been popular. "I think we pay enough in taxes and we shouldn't be charged another fee," said Niagara Falls homeowner Patricia Settimi.

In addition, its has some residents confused over how it will be applied. "Are they talking "tote set" because you have the green and the blue totes? Or will there be a separate charge for each one," wondered homeowner Sandy Onofrio.

The garbage fee idea was resurrected in September 2019 as Mayor Paul Dyster looked to close a $4 million gap for his proposed 2020 budget. It was estimated the cost would be about $250 per home using one set of totes (both green and blue).

However, the garbage fee was "tabled" by the council while they went through the budget process of reviewing the mayor's proposal and making budget amendments.

That process for the 2020 budget is nearing completion and the city council now must decide if the garbage fee stays or goes.

During a special meeting scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Thursday November 21st, the council will vote on whether to remove the garbage fee from "the table" and enact it into law.

If passed, residents will see a garbage user fee of between $181 and $187, explained Councilman Bill Kennedy (D), who said negotiations during the budget process helped lower the fee from the initial proposed amount of $250.

The exact final amount could change because there are still "many moving parts" with the 2020 budget, explained Kennedy.

The city is required to have a balanced budget filed by December 1st.

While the user fee is expected to pass, Councilman Chris Voccio (R) plans to vote against it. "This is not a user fee in lieu of taxes, this is in addition to taxes simply because the city is in a budget bind because we have no appetite to cut spending," said Voccio.

Voccio said the proposed 2020 budget, as it stands now, calls for the elimination of some city positions, a property tax increase around 2%, and the garbage user fee.

The user fee would become due next year and would be included with tax bills.

Discussions are still underway to develop a sliding scale for properties with multiple totes, such as multi-family homes or apartments.

If the user fee is voted down, Niagara Falls lawmakers have to scramble to come up with a new balanced budget by the deadline. "We will have a lot of work to do if that happens," added Councilman Kennedy, who said no user fee would mean cutting another 70 city jobs.