City administration maintains something needs to be done when it comes to waste management in Saskatoon, but some city councillors are saying they should “slow down” on plans to shift to a waste utility.
Just before an 11 p.m. cut-off Monday night, council voted 6-5 to delay voting on the utility until their Oct. 22 sitting when more reports are expected to be presented.
Debate stretched for a combined five hours on the topic of a “pay as you throw” system in council chambers Monday, with councillors firing a barrage of questions at officials on the program ranging from feasibility to practicality.
The proposed program would see waste management shift from being funded through property taxes to being paid for through user utility bills.
According to “conservative, high end” estimates from administration, the monthly cost for residents could start at $18 per-month for a garbage bin half the size of the current cart.
The current cart would start at a cost of $22.80, with plans to increase to $36.50 a month by 2023 to encourage shifting to the smaller sizes.
A standardized green organics cart for food waste and yard clippings would also be included under the proposed price structure.
Administration has said the plan would remove 3.5 per cent from property taxes — a $75 decrease for the average home priced at $371,000.
City Manager Jeff Jorgenson told councillors at the start of discussions action was necessary on waste management, because it is currently being underfunded by at least $2 million annually — the gap being filled by draining the landfill replacement reserve.
“The status quo is not an option,” he said.
However, several councillors weren’t comfortable with placing the burden for funding waste management completely on residents.
Ward 3 Coun. Ann Iwanchuk established the “break-even” point for a homeowner — where their property tax decrease would equal the added cost of the monthly utility — would be if their property was valued at $700,000.
“I don’t have a $700,000 house in my ward, and a lot of us don’t,” she said to her colleagues.
“To put that kind of a burden on the citizens of Saskatoon is beyond unfair.”
Council voted in favour of asking for more reports from administration regarding funding options for the green cart program, including the possibility of funding composting facilities through property taxes instead of the proposed utility fee structure.
In asking for the reports the vote to defer the debate arose, with Coun. Troy Davies and Darren Hill suggesting it be pushed back to December to allow for the most complete information to come forward.
“There is absolutely no rush on this, we are not going bankrupt with our reserves here,” Davies said.
“Let’s slow down and let’s get some informed information.”
However, several councillors raised concerns such a delay would be seen as “kicking the can down the road” and the motion was amended to an October deferral.
Hill took issue with the term, saying they were simply looking for the most complete information.
“We wanted to see all of the information requested tonight before we make a decision,” he said.
Hill and Davies were joined by councillors Iwanchuk, Donauer and Dubois in voting against the delay.
The latter three councillors did so because they felt they didn’t need the extra time.
“I don’t see myself supporting any of these recommendations, and I don’t know that I need more information to change my mind on that,” Iwanchuk said.
A motion put forward by Coun. Cynthia Block to explore the possibility of a utility bill program based on how often garbage bins were put out for collection, with lower costs for less frequent pick-ups, was defeated 3-8 with only Block, Sarina Gersher and Hilary Gough in favour.