City officials are seriously considering a $5 weekly garbage-collection fee as part of the response to Philadelphia's fiscal crisis.
No decision has been made on the fee proposal, which has been kicking around City Hall for years. At a budget meeting yesterday, however, the fee was presented as a far more likely possibility than it had seemed to be in the past.
"I do think it has tremendous merit," said Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler, who oversees the Streets Department, which collects trash and recyclables. "We're very seriously looking at it as an option."
As discussed, the fee would be levied per household and would total $260 a year. Cutler said there were still many details to work out, such as how to collect it. City Council also would review the levy.
But if it is adopted as Cutler proposed, the fee would raise $85 million to $105 million a year for the city and thus go a long way toward closing a projected $1 billion five-year budget deficit. The Nutter administration eliminated an earlier $1 billion budget gap in the fall by reducing spending and freezing planned tax reductions.
The fee would cover the city's annual sanitation budget and additional services, such as litter and illegal-dumping cleanup squads, Cutler said.
Mayor Nutter was more circumspect, repeatedly saying more review and analysis were needed. But he said that many municipalities had sanitation fees and that deep cuts to the garbage-collection budget would displease residents.
"We have to be open-minded enough to look at any number of ideas," Nutter said.
Thousands of cities charge homeowners sanitation fees. The $260 annual fee Cutler proposed does not seem out of line with those in other cities. Los Angeles, for instance, charges $436 a year.
Recycling would continue to be free. Indeed, the city saves money when residents recycle because landfill costs are so high. Cutler said the city was also considering a recycling incentive program, which would give residents who recycle vouchers of up to $5 a week to be used at Philadelphia stores.