_City News

Posted on: February 23, 2017

Small increase in trash fee sought but other user fees expected to remain flat

trash can icon

Feb. 22, 2017 - The city's three main Public Works services paid for with user fees were expected to increase this year, according to reports from two years ago. The good news is that two won't need t change, but projections show the solid waste fee won't fully cover expenses for next year without an increase.

Jason Mitchell, superintendent of Public Works operations, told City Council at its meeting Wednesday that the city needed to replace about 6 vehicles a year, at a cost of between $200,000-$300,000 each. 

The requested increase would be less than 4%. The weekly fee would go from $5.88 to $6.10, adding $1.91 to bi-monthly bills, for a total of $11.44 a year extra for homeowners. Alternatives to increasing the rate would be service reductions or reliability issues with trucks out of service more frequently.

Hampton's solid waste fee is roughly in the middle of rates for Hampton Roads cities, although none provide he level of service, with weekly bulk and yard waste pickups.

On the plus side, Mitchell and other staffers said, both the stormwater and wastewater fees had been expected to need increases next year as well, as Hampton and other cities in the region work to both upgrade and meet pollution reduction mandates. However, those will not be necessary. In both cases, the current level of fees can support next year's operations, officials said.

Another user fee discussion involves fees charged when city rescue staff respond to Emergency Medical Service calls. Currently, the city only bills insurance companies and accepts their standard fees. City residents aren't charged a co-pay. However, Hampton and Newport News have a mutual aid agreement under which the closest rescue team responds to calls near the city line. Since Newport News started billing residents for their co-pay, it's caused administrative issues with the program. Another potential hurdle is the expanding popularity of high-deductible plans with health savings accounts. Under those plans, residents don't receive a bill, as co-pays frequently haven't been met, although they have money in their health accounts. 

Assistant City Manager Steve Bond said the city needed to think about two things: 

  • Whether it wants to continue the mutual aid program with Newport News and create standard billing (allowing waivers for low-income residents) or stop that program; and
  • To what extent user fees - including co-pays - should cover emergency medical aid and to what extent those costs should be borne by the general fund, typically via higher tax rates for all.

Council took no action on any of these fees. The discussions are part of the city's budget formulation process and will continue through the spring. Residents can comment and offer priorities on these and other budget topics at the "I Value" input session Monday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Bethel High School. City Manager Mary Bunting will also hold an online chat Tuesday, Feb. 28, at noon.

In other matters:

  • Recognized six community organizations for their work with youth: Abu Unity Foundation, Swann Enterprises, The MAN Foundation, Parents against Bullying, My Life, My Legacy, and The GI.R.L.S. Club
  • Mayor Donnie Tuck read a statement strongly supporting the need for a Peninsula airport with quality service - for businesses and leisure travelers - but also expressing concern about a loan guarantee that was made to an airline without sufficient consultation. Tuck said the city would support the state's review of the commission's operations and withhold funding for the Regional Air Service Enhancement Committee until that review is complete. Nonetheless, he said, the city continues to believe in and support the value of regional air service.  

 

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