Parma Considering Garbage Fee After Years Of State Cuts, Declining Levy Revenue
Parma is considering a proposed garbage fee after millions of dollars in state cuts and declining levy revenues. Legislation enacting the garbage fee still was pending before Parma City Council at press time. The exact amount of the fee still was being worked on at publication, but officials said they believe the amount will total roughly $3 per week for most residents.
The decision to propose a garbage fee comes after Parma, like other cities, has felt the severe impact of cuts backed by Governor John Kasich and the Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly. Further, Cuyahoga County’s most recent property reassessment reduced property values in Parma and throughout the area, leading to diminishing levy revenues.
When looking at those two factors, it is estimated the city will lose more than $5 million for 2015 alone when compared to 2008. Since that year, cumulative losses as a result of state cuts and declining levy revenues are estimated at nearly $17 million. Additionally, the City still is absorbing the loss of GrafTech's corporate headquarters, a major blow to Parma's coffers.
In the last several years, city leaders have tried to manage the decline in revenue by using one-time money and program cuts. Further, Parma has reduced its workforce through attrition, unfilled vacancies, and deferred hiring, resulting in a savings of nearly $1 .7 million. “Parma is at a crossroads,” DeGeeter said. “We can no longer rely on one-time money to fill major budget holes and maintain critical services to residents.”
Without new revenue, the City likely will need to make major cuts in police and fire, a move that could hurt departments already below recommended staffing levels. For example, at a time when the Parma Police Department is responding to more calls than ever, the City has lowest number of officers per thousand residents in all of Cuyahoga County and is below state and national averages. “Making major cuts is unacceptable because of the risk it poses to our residents,” DeGeeter said. “It is essential to our quality of life that we maintain the vital safety forces that keep our city one of the safest cities our size.”
Instead, Parma is considering a garbage fee as a revenue source to maintain its current level of residential services. Officials made the decision after looking at the garbage fees enacted by other cities in Cuyahoga County and across the state.
In Ohio, seven of the top l0 most populous cities have a garbage fee. All but three, including Parma (the seventh-largest city in Ohio), do not. Meanwhile, at least 16 Cuyahoga County municipalities have a fee. A 17th city in our county is expected to implement one starting in 2016.
While a garbage fee may not be popular, it's consistent with what other cities in our county and across Ohio have done to increase revenue. Currently, Parma contracts with Republic Services to administer its $4 million automated trash collection program.
The proposed garbage fee is expected to cover most of the overall cost. However, officials caution the fee shouldn’t be considered a windfall. Rather, the proposed fee simply would allow the City to maintain current levels of service.
Since transitioning to automated pickup in 2013, Parma has saved more than $800,000 each year. The reason for the savings can be explained by the dramatic increase in the city’s recycling rate, from 9 percent when the program began to 35 percent today. As a result, Parma is reducing the amount of trash hauled to landfills.
However, next year, the city’s 25-year property lease with Republic Services expires in February 2016 – a lease that always has helped to significantly offset the costs of garbage collection. Republic Services entered into a lease agreement with the City for property located on Incinerator Drive because the company had contemplated building a transfer station there, but never did so.
When the lease ends, Parma will lose more than $700,000 next year, increasing the cost of the City’s trash collection program significantly. If Parma had not transitioned to automated trash pickup, the expenses would be even higher.
Communications Director for the City of Parma