Houston City Council voted to delay a vote on a citywide trash bin fee to May 13. Council Member Amy Peck proposed the measure so that she and other council members could look through the proposed Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget to find other areas of savings.
Original post: May 1, 2020:
Houston residents using the city’s trash collection services may have to start paying a $1 yearly lease fee on garbage bins starting in July.
The fee, to be considered by City Council on May 6, would save the city an estimated $1 million annually ahead of a historically large budget shortfall from sales tax losses due to the coronavirus.
Council members discussed the item April 29 but postponed the decision.
District J Council Member Edward Pollard said he understood the need but could not justify it when residents of his Southwest Houston district are struggling to make ends meet. Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex Tatum and Council Member Amy Peck opposed the effort as well.
“This is still a fee no matter how you slice it, and we’re asking the public to pay an additional dollar when every dollar counts," Pollard said.
Some ZIP codes in Southwest Houston have among the highest rates of unemployment claims per capita in the city.
Compared to other major cities in Texas, such fees are not unusual and are often higher. Austin charges $18 to $43 per month, and San Antonio charges $15 to $28 per month.
The fee does not apply to those who pay for private trash collection services.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said deferring police cadet classes and other municipal layoffs may be necessary in the budget cycle approaching June 1 and Council Member Robert Gallegos spoke in support of the fee, noting that layoffs and cuts were not a preferred option.
“With the little resources that they have, solid waste does an incredible job,” he said. “After Hurricane Harvey, we had people calling asking why their trash wasn’t getting picked up and our solid waste equipment was just breaking down on the roads because they were working 24 hours a day and we weren’t replacing the equipment like we were supposed to.”
In March 2019 while the city was grappling with voter-mandated raises for firefighters, former Council Member Dwight Boykins proposed a $19 to $27 trash collection fee, which the mayor and other council members opposed. The fee did not pass and the firefighters' pay raises are currently under review in a court of appeals.
“I have adamantly resisted moving in any direction as it relates to touching the garbage,” Turner said. “But we are not in the position to just offer these bins for free to people who are coming into our city.”