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Although the Columbus City Council in April eliminated mandatory trash fees for everyone who has a city-issued trash container, 95 households still pay the fee voluntarily.
Mayor Kristen Brown said she is not surprised by the donations.
“Last year during the (mayoral) campaign I heard from many people that they didn’t mind paying the fees and liked making an investment in the community,” she said.
Brown and other City Council candidates campaigned against the trash fees, saying they were unfair and should be rescinded. The fees were enacted by the previous City Council in 2010 to make up for a loss of property tax revenue.
The fees originally ranged from $10 to $14, based on the size of one’s trash container, but were reduced by $5 in 2011.
Residents received a notice with their May utility bill that explained that the trash fee for single containers was removed — additional containers are still billed — but the notice included a box for people to check if they wanted to continue to pay.
Brown said most of the donations are $5 but range up to $10. And the donors live in all parts of the city, she added.
Brown said she pays a $5 donation for the small trash container she has. The money being donated goes to the city’s General Fund.
Judy Jones said she donates $5 to the General Fund because she appreciates having her trash picked up and likes the friendly, accommodating service.
“They are here. You can’t beat that. It’s just nice to know that they come around once a week,” Jones said.
The donation is worth it, she added, if it helps the city’s budget. The 95 donors represent less than 1 percent of the 14,228 households in Columbus, Brown said.
“We’re extremely grateful, very, very grateful, and appreciate the generosity of those who are donating,” Brown said.
Columbus City Council at-large member Jim Lienhoop, who also served on the previous council, said he’s not surprised by the low number of donations because most people don’t want to pay what they do not have to pay.
Lienhoop said he doesn’t think his household pays a trash fee donation but admitted that he wasn’t sure because his wife pays the bills.
The donations, which the mayor said are tax deductible, bring in an extra $549 per month and $6,588 per year.
“That’s a meaningful number of us. Budgets are so tight, particularly in the General Fund,” Brown said.
The city doesn’t have any specific uses for the trash donations, and nobody has specifically asked that their donation be used in a particular manner, Brown said, but finding something special to use the money for is a consideration.
Lienhoop and City Council member Tim Shuffett said using the donations for education about recycling would be a good use.
“There is a cost of trash disposal, and we take that for granted, and we ought not,” Lienhoop said. “You can’t throw that stuff away for free.”
Shuffett said some of his constituents have expressed a desire to have a curbside recycling program in the city, and he thinks people making the trash fee donations probably would support a recycling program, too.
He said his household does not pay a trash fee donation.
Future utility statements will tell customers that if they would like to begin voluntarily paying the trash fee to contact the city utilities department at an email address provided, Brown said. And if someone wants to stop paying, they would need to contact the utilities department by phone, email or a website form.
If someone doesn’t donate for two months in a row, the city will automatically stop billing them for the donation, Brown added.
Animal Care Services — formerly known as Columbus Animal Control — and the Columbus Parks and Recreation Foundation are the only city departments that regularly receive donations, Brown said.
She added that there have been discussions about seeking donations for the dogs used in the Columbus Police Department’s K-9 unit, because training, veterinary care and dog food are expensive.
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