It’s budget time again for Goshen and city officials have a problem that has lingered for years: Where to find $800,000 to pay for trash service within the city limits. That money was not included in the budget Mayor Allan Kauffman presented to the City Council during an initial hearing last week.
Historically the city has not designated money specifically for citywide trash collection. That bill was essentially paid directly from the general fund and from property tax revenues. Now that the property tax caps of recent years are putting a pinch on municipal revenues, it has become more difficult to lump trash pick-up costs in with the general fund while maintaining other services and positions.
As a way around the caps, Kauffman has suggested a $5 per month trash fee for each household. A number of other Indiana cities have trash fees while a good number of others do not. That is not something this newspaper necessarily opposes, but it merits serious community discussion.
Without a specific trash fee for residents, there are pretty much two courses of action for the city: 1.) Continue as we have and make up the difference from the “Rainy Day Fund,” or 2.) make spending reductions elsewhere.
Fortunately the mayor and council have managed the city’s checkbook well enough in recent years to build a cash surplus, a luxury many cities of similar size do not have. Still, that surplus will evaporate if it is continually counted upon for routine expenses, such as trash collection.
City Council President Tom Stump has countered Kauffman’s initial 2013 budget, with a series of suggested cuts that would get the city closer to the $800,000 trash expense, but not all the way. Stump’s suggestions include cutting as many as seven city employees and program funding for the city newsletter, the Community Relations Commission and Downtown Goshen Inc.
Mayor Kauffman talks often about the “quality of place,” here in Goshen. He feels his role as mayor is to both protect that quality and enhance that quality. The cuts Stump is proposing — the elimination of code-enforcement officers, the city forester and street department and park maintenance positions — would certainly have an impact on Kauffman’s vision of quality.
This is not an easy problem to solve. Some tough choices await the City Council. Many people in our community would rather the city just institute the $5 monthly fee and be done with it. For others, particularly those who may be out of work, another bill is the last thing they need.
People’s jobs are on the line here. We owe it to them to discuss this matter from every conceivable and responsible point of view. If you have any suggestions or ideas, speak up. Let us know in a letter to the editor. Better yet even, let your City Council representative know what’s on your mind.