BRIDGMAN — There was a lot of trash talk at the Bridgman City Council meeting on Monday.
The “trash” talk began when City Manager Juan Ganum presented several options open to the council to recover the costs of trash and recycling pick-up, a yearly cost of about $100,000 that the city has not directly passed on to residents. Ganum pointed out that while the city is able to get a very low rate from Reliable Recycling for citywide pick-up, it is the only municipality in the area using collected tax money to cover the total cost of trash collection. The city pays Republic $8.05 a month per resident/address for trash pick-up, and $2.25 for recycling.
Ganum laid out different scenarios of frequency and cost-sharing options: residents paying trash and city paying recycling; residents paying recycling and city paying trash, or residents paying for both trash and recycling. Frequency of pick-up also varied. Under these different scenarios, yearly costs to residents varied from $27 to $150. Yearly cost to the city ranged from $0 to $171,000.
Ganum said the staff favors a gradual increase to ease residents into the new payments, rather than hit them with a new cost all at once. He said the added revenue, due to the cost savings to the city, could be used for needed capital projects or services such as street maintenance. He said the earliest a new fee could be assessed would be on summer tax bills.
During council discussion, Council member Rick Fuller said he doesn’t think he will support passing the cost on to residents, particularly after the sewer and water rate increases the council passed last spring in its attempt to keep those services self-supporting. He suggested some kind of shared cost arrangement.
Council member Stacy Stine said that while she realizes a new fee could be difficult for some residents, the council has to be fiscally responsible. She said asking residents to pay for trash and recycling is for something tangible that they receive, and it is something residents in other communities already directly pay for.
Mayor Vince Rose said the council is now playing catch-up for previous decisions, and said the city cannot continue to absorb the cost.
Also on Monday the city earned a “clean unmodified” opinion for its 2018 audit, in part due to its general fund balance of $1.5 million, which is equal to 10 months, or 87 percent of the city’s yearly expenditures. He said that balance is “very healthy” and well above the minimum recommendation of 2.5 months. The financial statement showed $2.2 million total revenues and expenses $2.6 million.
Bob Kittle of Munetrix, a public sector financial analytic firm that supplies the city’s dashboard report that is found on the city’s website, gave a presentation on municipal finances statewide and complimented Bridgman on its policy of maintaining a fund balance of at least 40 percent. Kittle said Bridgman is one of only a dozen statewide with such a policy.
Also in his presentation, Kittle provided an overview of the impacts on local municipal funding due to the Headlee Act of 1978 and Proposition A of 1994. He said that while Bridgman is on “solid footing,” it can’t take that for granted, citing issues of aging infrastructure and rising benefit cots that municipalities must plan for.
The council also approved delaying Ganum’s yearly review until April 1, with any salary increase being retroactive, to allow new council members more time to evaluate him.