In October of 2022 Council approved a change to how we pay for residential curbside waste removal. Here's the full report. That includes the brown (landfill garbage), blue (recycling), and green (composting) bins. Right now, garbage is paid for through general property taxes while the blue bin is tacked on to your utility bill and paid for only by users of that program. Here's what the change will mean for residents.
I'm 100% behind additional landfill diversion strategies. That includes the gold standard scrape the plate composting program. Find out more on-line. These services have been in place across Canada for decades. Regina lags behind and we have the growing garbage dump to show for it. The green bin pilot program that we rolled out across the city yielded very positive results. Residents were overwhelming in support of the new service. I think it will work as it has elsewhere in Canada.
My objection is the payment structure, which I'm not convinced will actually incentivize the use of our blue and upcoming green bins. In my experience, the availability of the service itself is more influential. The new fee model is regressive, with lower assessed properties experiencing higher net costs versus higher assessed properties. A breakdown is below. Some people will pay more, on average, and others will pay less.
What will it cost individual residents?
If you want the larger 360 L garbage bin, that will cost $284.70/year, or $23.73/month. If you want the smaller, 240 L garbage bin that will cost $193.45/year or $16.12 per month. This includes the blue and green bins, so there's a financial incentive to go with the smaller bin and to use the landfill diversion programs.
What about low income residents?
Staff did a great job developing a low income rebate program, which applies to all low income residents who require these waste services. This is indexed to the LICO, or Low Income Cut-offs. You can find more information about those numbers through Statistics Canada. In Regina that means a single person earning less than $18,656, or a family of 7 earning less than $48,925. This is much like the rebate program we are developing for water and sewer, along with transit and recreation passes. It's not perfect but at least it provides a benchmark.
Will my property taxes go down as a result?
Well, sort of. The switch to a utility model represents a 3.16 per cent mill rate decrease in your property taxes. That will benefit higher assessed properties and, by rough association, higher income residents. The last point is speculative and based on census-informed data that suggests that higher income residents typically possess higher income properties. The economic benefits will be built into future budget decisions.
Is this fair?
It depends on what you think is fair. Commercial and residential properties, like condos and apartment buildings, currently pay through their property taxes for a garbage service they don't have access to. These properties are required to pay for private garbage and recycling. So this represents a kind of procedural fairness. A comprehensive policy specific to industrial and commercial enterprises in underway.
Condos now receive a modest rebate to help offset their costs. The recent changes will end that subsidy because these properties will no longer pay for services through their taxes that they no longer receive.
On the other hand, it's likely that lower income residents and property owners could be paying slightly more on a monthly basis.