Editorial: A tax would be better than a garbage fee

May 12, 2004

Just because Danville is an exception to the rule among Kentucky cities in providing free garbage pickup does not mean it is in the wrong. In fact, there is much that is right about viewing garbage pickup as just another government service, such as police and fire protection.

The trend in Kentucky in recent years has been for the state legislature to require county governments to provide convenient methods for county residents to dispose of their garbage. That's one of the reasons Boyle County has convenience centers scattered about the county to make it easy for residents to dispose of their trash properly, rather than pitching it along the roadside, down a hill or into a creek.

That service is expensive for the county, as is curbside pickup for the city, but it was put in place for environmental and aesthetic reasons, and it has worked pretty well.

Danville City Manager Darrell Blenniss has said that the city government could save $560,000 a year by charging city residents for garbage pickup, but that wouldn't be a savings for residents unless their taxes were lowered by an equal amount, which is not what the city manager is proposing. The $560,000 would come right out of residents' pockets.


For some residents, the proposed $7.50 monthly fee would be no big deal. To others, such as people on fixed incomes, it could be a burden. If the city adjusted the rates so that senior citizens or disabled people paid less, then it would have to raise the rates for everyone else. And that would be patently unfair: Some senior citizens, who would receive discounts, actually would have a much greater ability to pay than young people with families who would be paying the higher garbage pickup fees.

To encourage recycling, Blenniss has suggested a garbage fee that would vary based on the size of the trash container that residents drag to the curb. The smaller the container, the less residents would pay.

It's possible that such a system would increase recycling. Some residents would take more of their trash to the recycling center. Others, however, might just throw the extra garbage away or take it to a county convenience center. That could just shift the cost from the city to the county and disrupt the county's system which, as we have said, seems to be working pretty well.

Moreover, Danville is a community where people are encouraged to keep their property in good shape. Charging people more for disposing of their yard waste and other trash would send just the opposite message.

Perhaps, a garbage fee is the right thing for Danville, but we remain unconvinced that it would be a better town because of it.

If the city wants additional revenue to build a new city hall, police station and public works building, a more honest approach would be to raise taxes. That way, city officials would have to convince the public that the new facilities are really needed.

And the city wouldn't have to disrupt a system of garbage pickup that works well for the residents and business owners who are, after all, already paying for it with their tax dollars.

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