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City Hallways (Feb.2) No one wants to raise the user fee, but . . .

User fee isn't covering costs

For years now, it's been clear that the city's user fee isn't covering the full cost of picking up trash and recycling in Buffalo.

The user fee brings in about $16 million, while the cost is about $20 million.

The difference is made up through the city's general fund budget which, unlike the user fee, comes from city taxpayers.

The thing is, the user fee is spread out among more property owners, including non-profit organizations such as churches, schools and communty non-profits that don't pay property taxes. So that means taxpayers pick up the extra share of the cost of trash and recycling collection not covered by the user fee.

After the discrepency was recently brought up by the city's outside accountant, the Council asked the city comptroller's office for more details,  including such things as how much would the user fee have to increase to fully cover trash and recyling.

The answer came this week.

There are 86,410 properties assessed a user fee. The average payment is $184.

But to cover the actual cost  of  the service, the average bill would have to immediately increase to $232, the comptroller's office calculated.

The reason for the growing gap is largely personnel costs. Salaries, under existing contract, go up 2 percent a year. But the user fee hasn't increased.

So, adjusting for next year's raise, the average fee would have to be $239 for the service to pay for itself , the comptroller's office calculated.

That's about a 30 percent increase over the current user fee.

But it would reduce the annual taxpayer subsidy from the city's general fund budget.

No change, however, is anticipated in the user fee.

After the comptroller's office reported on the situation to the Council, Council President Darius Prigen asked if the comptroller was recommending the user fee be increased.

"No, in no way are we suggesting that. I want to make that clear," said Pat Curry, a top aide to City Comptroller Mark Schroeder.

"The Council is not either," Pridgen responded.

Mayor race

There was a forum last night at the Merriweather Library for potential candidates for mayor of Buffalo.

Comptroller Schroeder showed up. So did Terry Robinson, a community advocate and preservationist who is a friend of Joe Mascia, the ousted BMHA tenant commissioner.

Mayor Byron Brown wasn't there.

The event was hosted by We Are Women Warriors, a group affiliated with County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

Today's calendar items
Mayor Brown this morning announcing plans for 2017 summer internship programs. There are 1,400 positions available.

In today's Buffalo News and buffalonews.com, I have story on Brown's recent trip to Albany.

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