As city council eyes changes to how people pay to have their garbage taken away, Saskatoon’s mayor is reassuring taxpayers they won’t be asked to pay twice for the service.
Monday saw councillors vote 8-2 in favour of having administration put together a report on options for what’s called utility billing — that is, charging people a bill for garbage pickup rather than drawing the cost from general property taxes.
The issue went through the committee stage earlier this month. At that time, many commenters expressed concern a new bill would be tacked on top of the portion of tax they already pay for trash pickup..
Speaking Tuesday on the Brent Loucks Show, Mayor Charlie Clark said homeowners would see a reduction in their property tax to reflect any new, separate bill.
“We’re not saying we want to double-charge people and add a fee in addition to what you pay on your taxes. But (rather), to separate from your taxes, take it off of your taxes,” he said.
Right now, people get separate bills for recycling pickup, and for using the green bins for yard and food waste. Clark said the current system creates the wrong incentives by hiding the cost of garbage while highlighting the price of using more desirable services that keep waste out of the city’s rapidly filling landfill.
“(Recycling and compost) are the two things we charge for. Whereas garbage collection, which is what’s going to fill up our landfill and create a huge multi-million dollar liability down the road, is buried in your taxes,” he said.
A separate billing system would also open the door to changing to a model that charges people more based on how much garbage they leave out to be picked up.
Clark said other city’s have done this for years, using systems such as charging people based on whether they use a small, medium or large bin, or by billing people by weight of the garbage they leave out.
The mayor stressed that council still hasn’t approved any change and is still exploring potential new models. He said council would be as transparent as possible as it moves through the process.
“We’re going to have a public discussion about what all those options are and what the impact is of doing something like this. And also, what the cost (is) of not doing it, in terms of future councils and residents having to build a second landfill,” he said.
Council will discuss the issue again when it gets its next report from administration in August.