Wednesday, March 3, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Council members
wary of
garbage fee

The mayor's plan is to charge
$1.10 for pickup at single-family
homes, rather than raise taxes

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The fate of Mayor Jeremy Harris' plan to charge for city garbage pickup may depend on the view of John Q. Aloha.

That's because City Council members have been lukewarm about charging $1.10 a pickup for the city's 174,000 primarily single-family households.

"I think the public is going to have a lot to say about it, absolutely," said Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann, who has not yet formed an opinion on the proposal.

"It comes down to a very simple question: Are you willing to impose fee increases in these different areas in order to keep your property taxes the same?" said Councilman Jon Yoshimura. "This is a question we need to put to the people."

Harris, at a news conference unveiling his $1.024 billion budget, said his administration has already determined that the public would prefer to keep property taxes steady.

"Most people are not adverse to paying $1.10 for a truck and crew to come out to the house to pick up garbage," the mayor said.

Harris acknowledged that the Council could choose to raise taxes instead.

"There's no absolute right answer to these questions," he said. "Adjusting property taxes in lieu of that is certainly a reasonable alternative."

For Harris, another issue is fairness. Condominium and apartment residents have complained for years that their property tax dollars go toward a service that is enjoyed primarily by single-family dwellers.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani thinks the city "needs to do everything possible to avoid raising property taxes." Charging garbage fees "needs to be looked at," he said.

Councilman John DeSoto said some people, particular those economically disadvantaged, may choose not to take, or pay for, the service at all.

At $1.10 a pickup, the annual bill would run $114.40.

DeSoto said he has no problem with raising golf fees or motor-vehicle registration costs since the public has more options. Garbage pickup, however, "should not be a choice," he said, and could lead to unsanitary conditions if some opt out of getting the service.

Councilman Duke Bainum said he'd rather see property taxes increase because property taxes are deductible and garbage fees are not.

The proposal "still means we're paying for it and now we have the disadvantage of not having it taken off our taxes," Bainum said.

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim said she's not certain how the logistics would work.

Some people might prefer to get the service only once a week if they have to pay, Kim said. She also doesn't think it's fair that people get charged for the fee if they're on vacation or don't have rubbish to put out.

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