West York hikes trash fee for second time in three months
The West York Borough Council voted 4-3 Monday to increase the quarterly trash fee by $10, bringing the fee to $95 per quarter for each unit.
The same motion failed 4-3 at the previous council meeting, but council member Mildred Tavarez, who voted against the increase at the March 1 meeting, was absent Monday, and Mayor Bruce Vick broke the 3-3 tie in favor of the increase.
"I understand what everybody’s talking about, I truly do," Vick said in reference to the objections. "But again, we can’t just keep pulling money out of nowhere to pay bills."
Along with Vick, council members Lisa Gross, Alan Vandersloot and Vice President Wayne Leedy voted for the increase. Council members Linda Heiner, Regina Scott and President Mary Wagner voted no.
Steep drops in tax revenue and refuse payments, along with other financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced the borough to cut staff and increase fees to cover costs in the last several months.
But the council has been divided over how to handle the refuse fee.
This is the second $10 increase in three months, after the council bumped the refuse fee from $75 to $85 per quarter in December, as part of the 2021 budget.
Wagner said it's difficult to know what to do to collect more revenue because the borough has exhausted all of its legal options for collection of past due bills.
As of the beginning of March, more than 35% of borough residents hadn't paid their quarterly refuse bills for several months, borough manager Shawn Mauck has said.
But Wagner also said that borough residents can't afford another increase, and eventually, if the costs keep going up, the people who do pay their bills are going to get tired of it, and they'll stop paying, too.
"It’s not right to keep passing it on to the person that pays their bill every month, every quarter, every year," she said. "Property taxes, refuse ... it’s not right."
The borough's contract with trash hauler Republic Services ends after this year, and Vick said the borough's costs could increase substantially based on how much Republic or other companies are willing to bid for the borough's business.
Mauck said he's looking into how much it would cost for the borough to buy two trash trucks and hire its own staff to do the borough's trash hauling in house, as opposed to paying an outside company.
The benefit of in-house service would be that the borough could ensure everyone's trash is picked up on time, he said.
"The devil’s always in the details with these types of things," Mauck said. "We’ve got to make sure we can afford the employees and the benefits and how we would structure that program."