Monthly trash cart fees to rise in Bloomington, about 35% in 2024, 3% each year after that

Starting in 2024, Bloomington residents who get curbside trash and recycling collection service from the city will pay a bigger monthly fee.

The cost for a 35-gallon trash cart, which is the smallest size, will go from $6.51 to $8.75 per month. That’s 34-percent more.

A 64-gallon cart, which is the next size up, will go from $11.61 to $16.00 a month. And a 96-gallon cart, which is the biggest size, will increase from $18.52 to $24 a month.

Carts for recyclables are not charged a separate fee.

Bloomington’s city council enacted the trash cart fee increases, which are effective starting Jan. 1, 2024, at its regular Wednesday meeting.

Under the ordinance, which was approved by the council on an 8–1 vote, the price for each cart size will go up by 3 percent in 2025 and every year after that, to reflect basic inflationary cost increases.

Dissenting on the vote was Jim Sims.

For Sims, a big consideration during the months-long deliberations on the topic of a trash cart increase has been the council’s decision in 2022 to increase the local income tax (LIT).  Sims supported the LIT increase, which passed on a 9–0 vote. The extra 0.69 points of LIT generates an extra $16 million in annual revenue to the city of Bloomington.

For Sims, that extra revenue should be enough to cover the difference between the amount generated by trash cart fees and the actual cost of running the sanitation department. Sims has pointed to the fact that the LIT increase was supposed to support basic city services.

The shortfall between trash cart fee revenues and the sanitation department’s costs has been around $1 million a year for at least the last half decade. That shortfall has been made up with support from the city’s general fund.

It’s that general fund support to which councilmember Matt Flaherty and some other councilmembers object.

Flaherty frames the argument in terms of equity—between residents who live in buildings with four or fewer units (including single-family houses), and those who live in larger multi-family buildings.

Bloomington offers curbside waste collection service only to buildings with four or fewer units. Currently, that operation gets general fund support to make up for whatever the trash cart fees don’t cover. That allows residents to pay less for curbside waste collection than they would otherwise have to pay, if the fees covered the whole cost. The argument goes like this: That’s not equitable, because residents of multi-family buildings are not being provided with a similar amount of support to defray their costs.

Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, and Kate Rosenbarger would have supported a bigger increase to trash cart fees—one that over time would have erased the need for general fund support to the sanitation department.

The most recent trash carts fee proposal from public works director Adam Wason, on behalf of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration, was made in late July. That proposal would have eliminated general fund support for the sanitation department by 2029.

On that proposal, by 2029 the rate for the smallest size cart would have been $14 a month—compared to the 2029 rate of $10.14 that will result from the council’s enacted ordinance.

The late July proposal from the administration matched an amendment to a different mayoral proposal that Flaherty and Volan drafted in mid-June. But at that time, the two councilmembers opted against moving that amendment to a vote—because it did not look like it had majority support. In June, the council voted down the proposed trash cart increase from the administration, and in late July started fresh with the administration’s new proposal.

The council arrived at an increase that was much smaller than the administration’s proposal, through an amendment put forward by Flaherty on Wednesday.

Flaherty’s amendment specified the same initial fee increase for 2024 as in the administration’s proposal, but struck the scheduled increases for subsequent years, which had averaged around 10 percent each year.

Flaherty said he still supported the increases in subsequent years, but wanted to amend the proposal to something that would have majority support. He was not certain that the administration’s unamended proposal wouldn’t have majority support, so he asked his colleagues to speak up if they would support the unamended ordinance. It seemed apparent that it would not have achieved a five-vote majority.

It was Volan who proposed amending Flaherty’s amendment, so that instead of the more ambitious increases in subsequent years, there would be a 3-percent increase, meant to acknowledge the reality of inflation.

The ordinance approved by the city council does not lay out the 3-percent increase in a table with rows for each year. It just describes how the yearly increase is to be calculated. Without any change to the ordinance, the 3-percent annual increase will persist into the indefinite future.

4 thoughts on “Monthly trash cart fees to rise in Bloomington, about 35% in 2024, 3% each year after that

  1. The upshot is that if we don’t want our to rise, we need only jump down to a smaller trash cart. It’s almost as if we’re being offered incentives to generate less trash.

  2. When the current trash system was implemented a few years ago, the city promised it would return to a pay-as-you-throw system in a few years. What happened to that promise? A real incentive to generate less trash would be a pay-as-you-throw system. We used to have a pay-as-you-throw system with trash stickers, and with the current system with numbered carts, I understand that we wouldn’t even need to use stickers.

    The rate increases are an incentive to generate more trash if, like many of my neighbors, you already have the smallest trash cart and aren’t filling it up every week. I compost and practice low-waste living, so I put my small trash cart out every 3 or 4 weeks. However, I’m charged the full fee, and that’s not fair.

    1. I agree with you in theory. I miss the trash sticker system, too. We also rarely put out a full cart of trash.

      The problem, I think, is that it costs the sanitation department the same to run their routes regardless of how many carts are actually put out for collection. They never know if every house on the route will put out a cart, or half of them, or none. But they have to run the route regardless.

    2. Same here. It’s cant be an incentive to generate less trash for a smaller cart because the (inconvenience) fee for exchanging carts is $50. Appropriately $4.16 a month and not much more than 4 extra pickups a billing period.

      And we no longer have street sweeping services. If I remember correctly, the cutting edge digital trash management third party software company major selling point was efficiency cost savings waste collection

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