Sunday, May 04, 2008

City in bind over trash

Calgary's waste and recycling department is facing a $17-million operating shortfall over the next three years, raising alarms about how the services are funded.

It's a problem that will only get worse as Calgary becomes greener, since less garbage means fewer tipping fees are collected at the landfills. Tipping fees raise about $30.5 million of the department's $65-million budget.

Right now, Calgary homeowners pay about $2.50 each month to have a truck drive down their street and remove the garbage. The actual cost of the service is about twice that, with the difference made up by non-residential property taxes.

That number doesn't include the cost of dealing with the garbage once it's dumped in one of the city's three landfills, which face growing, and expensive, environmental regulations.

As well, it costs Calgary taxpayers nothing to recycle -- the drop-off depots located around the city are paid for entirely through the tipping fees from commercial and industrial clients. Homeowners will begin paying for recycling next year, when curbside pickup, with its $8 a month charge, kicks in.

But the depot system will continue for those who live in condos or apartments, still covered by tipping fees. Those fees also pay for the cost of picking up yard waste, Christmas trees and discarded jack o' lanterns.

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