PORTLAND BUSINESSES have been railing against Mayor Charlie Hales' ill-fated proposal to raise Portland business taxes but there's a far steeper potential hike tucked away in the mayor's budget.
In a little-noticed item, Hales has proposed raising the city's fee on commercial trash collectors by up to 31 percent in coming years—from $8.30 per ton of trash to as high as $10.90 per ton by 2020.
The hikes, which would be split evenly between two $1.30 jumps under the proposal, could bleed into the rates businesses and apartment buildings pay for trash collection. They wouldn't affect collection rates for single-family homes.
That's a bit odd, because the issue Hales wants to address with the rate hike affects all Portlanders.
The city plans to use revenue from the higher fees to more than double the number of public trash cans in the city—from fewer than 600 today to around 1,400 by 2020. That'll take around $500,000 just to purchase new cans, the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) estimates, and perhaps $1.1 million a year for trash collection and maintenance. Hales also wants to create a new position to oversee the whole program.
"It's a tiny impact on individual bill payers, with a big, positive impact for the city's commercial districts," says Hales' spokesperson, Sara Hottman.
Indeed, the plan would vastly expand the number of neighborhoods that get public trash cans. Currently, just seven business districts host the city's roughly 570 cans, and the vast majority—around 400—are downtown. Under the expanded program, the city would add around five neighborhoods a year until public trash pickup extended to 31 urban "centers" identified in the city's Comprehensive Plan. The farthest from downtown: the intersection of SE 162nd and Division.
"I would assume that part of [the fee raise] will be passed through to the customers," says Kevin Veaudry Casaus, a solid waste and recycling coordinator at BPS, "but the disposal cost is a small portion of the overall cost of service."
The fee the City of Portland charges haulers for doing away with trash pales in comparison to Metro's charge of $94.98 per ton. But the raises Hales has proposed—chosen from a number of options BPS considered—are steep enough to give the city's budget office pause. The office recommended Hales hold off on a rate hike while the city investigated what the true costs of the program might be.
Hales chose to ignore that advice. And on this fee hike, at least, it doesn't appear he'll get pushback.
"We're not planning to oppose this," says Dave White, who represents the Portland area for the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association.