The utopian dreamers on the St. Pete City Council are waking up to reality: “universal” curbside recycling costs money and they don’t have any. Last week, the City Council approved plans to move forward with a mandatory garbage rate hike and placement of 77,000 new 90 gallon rolling bins for recycling (with radio monitoring chips). They were told by city administrators that cost of the recycling plan would be $5.20 per customer if done by city workers and $3-4 per customer if they outsourced it. The new trucks to manage the recyclables and the rolling bins would cost $12 million. The Council is now faced with sticking city residents with an even higher garbage bill – on top of one that is already the highest in the Tampa Bay area at $22 per month.
The Council is thus scrambling to find funds. Council member Karl Nurse was wondering why Pinellas County can’t pay for the capital costs. Darden Rice is in disbelief that costs will go up and seems to be looking for magical solutions – more likely she would rather raid reserves or raise taxes elsewhere to hide the true cost. Undoubtedly under pressure from her and other Liberal dreamers, Progressive-in-Chief Mayor Kriseman has delayed the bids for a private contractor. His goal is to have one company do curbside pickups and another to manage the recyclables at a plant. Will any of these business geniuses discover that involving more parties leads to more costs? Probably not, but the end game is likely one of keeping the work entirely within the city to ensure more union jobs and benefits.
Darden Rice has not questioned why the costs are so much higher for recycling if the city does it alone. It turns out that city workers receive benefits and salaries that are far out of pace with workers in the private sector. 75% of the cost of health insurance for family members is paid for by taxpayers. City workers can retire at 55 with 90% of their income with free or cheap health care for life. Of course, there is no money to pay for these costs as pension funds are about $625 million short of their goals and the $177 million retiree health plan is 100% unfunded. Heck, in 2011 (last data available) retired city workers have a higher take home pay than active city workers – $46.2K vs $32.6K!
However, none of these financial facts will stop our City Council from pursuing their dream of mandatory recycling. They will find money, invent “fixes”, hide costs and do Pelosi style “Parachutes and Pole Vaults” to reach their goal. The only question is: will citizens tell government “no”?