John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
New Castle’s Act 47 team is questioning a proposal by city officials to increase the garbage bag fee.
However, the consensus of city council at this point favors an increase in the fee plus a new recycling fee as a better alternative to increasing the property tax for 2013.
City officials have proposed that the fee, now at $2 per bag, be increased by a maximum of $1 and that a new $2 recycling fee be imposed.
The fees would be included in a recovery plan that amends the current five-year recovery plan, which will expire at the end of this year. The amended plan, drafted by the Act 47 team, will run from 2013 through 2015.
The amended plan recommends an increase in the property tax by one mill for next year and by an additional one mill for 2015. All the revenue from both increases would go toward the city’s pension fund.
A one-mill increase is projected to generate $400,000.
At its work session on Tuesday, council noted the Act 47 team has said an increase in the blue bag fee should essentially cover only the costs to provide the refuse collection service and not other purposes.
Council president MaryAnne Gavrile said she had talked with Jim Roberts of the Act 47 team and told him a majority of council is in favor of increasing the blue bag fee.
Expressing disagreement with the team, Gavrile said council increased the blue bag fee in 2009, but the revenue was not earmarked for a specific purpose.
Business administrator Stephanie Dean said that increase was not intended to fund garbage collection.
Another concern expressed by the Act 47 team is the money the city is expecting from the leasing of gas rights. Gavrile said the team wants to know when the money will be released to the city.
In July, council accepted the proposal of Hilcorp Energy of Houston, Texas, of $2,002,479.50 for the leasing of gas rights on specific city-owned properties. Hilcorp submitted the only proposal, which covers 572.14 acres of city-owned land.
Using some of that money as an alternative to a property tax increase is another possible option.
Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo said Wednesday he has signed the agreement, but Hilcorp has yet to do so.
Council introduced an ordinance amending the recovery plan as prepared by the Act 47 team last month.
According to Gavrile, Roberts has suggested council keep the recovery plan ordinance tabled until the team discusses the gas lease with Hilcorp.