Thursday, November 13, 2008
More trash talk
First of all, I must commend the City of Toronto for its quick response. I left a message with one of the project communicators for the new garbage program, and she called me back within an hour. When I'm not calling from a major newspaper, that's a pretty fast response.
She explained the program and pricing very well and cleared up some of the concerns I raised in yesterday's post. But I'm still not convinced that the system is universally fair and that it doesn't discriminate against people who live in small multi-family buildings (that is, places with 2-8 apartments... the city has a different program for what it calls "multi-unit" dwellings, which are larger apartment blocks).
First, the garbage fee is not being applied to the water bill, it will be part of a new water and waste bill. Still a lousy deal for tenants who pay for all their utilities, but I recognize that a minority of people who live in apartments pay their water bills directly. Then again, isn't fair treatment of a minority one of those principles we're supposed to consider as a society?
Okay, so each building pays for garbage collection through its property taxes. Under the new system, each building will instead pay a garbage fee, based on the size of its container. That fee is given a $209 rebate annually. Why $209? Because it's the average amount paid for garbage collection in the city.
Where this breaks down, from my perspective, is that not all buildings are equal. Buildings with two or three apartments often have higher assessments and pay higher taxes. Which would mean that the tenants will, under the new system, end up paying for garbage collection twice. Once with the new fee and again because the $209 rebate won't fully offset the difference that they pay indirectly through property taxes.
Each building gets the $209 rebate once, no matter how many units there are, no matter how many families live there, no matter how many bins they have (you can have more bins, you just pay more).
The city encourages "bin sharing" to avoid extra fees. That's a good idea, and the reason why I'll be sharing the second-smallest bin with my neighbours. That bin will cost us $39/year after the rebate. But if I didn't have to share with my neighbours, I could use a bin half that size... no, I wouldn't pay half as much ($19.50), but instead would get a $10 rebate.
If I lived in the single-family house next door and generated the same amount of waste as I do now, I'd be getting a rebate. So would my neighbours.
So I have yet to get an explanation that really makes clear how this system is in the least bit a fair one. If one of the experts from the City of Toronto is reading, please do use the comments section to set me straight, if I've got this all wrong. I'd rather discover that I'm wrong than feel that the city isn't treating tenants in small buildings fairly.