City Manager Julia Carroll's plan to increase the recycling fee by a third to $5 a month and relabel it a sanitation charge came under fire at Saturday's City Council budget workshop.
"This is nonsense," Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said. "You don't charge people $2 more a month and call it an incentive to recycle."
"You need to add bigger receptacles for recycling," Ald. Rainey said, "This is so outrageous, so wrong. It's a regressive tax."
The recycling fee appears as an added charge on the city's water bills. As a result, unlike property tax payments, it is not deductible for homeowners who itemize on their federal and state income tax forms.
The fee also is charged as a flat rate per household. Property taxes, while not directly tied to income, do vary based on the value of the owner's property.
Ms. Carroll has noted that, with the fee increase, the city would be able to recoup about a quarter of the cost of its trash-hauling and recycling programs from the user fees.
The city is considering switching from small recycling bins to large wheeled recycling carts, but hasn't yet worked out how to cover the cost of the new carts.
Ms. Carroll said the city's Streets and Sanitation Department has recently improved its efficiency, but that costs there are still "11 percent over market" and more efficiencies need to be achieved.