By Elsa Maxey
It’s not a tax, it’s a fee. A five percent fee will be added to Missouri City’s solid waste customers probably this fall. Exactly what kind of a price range increase for customers in relation to hard numbers is unknown at this time. But for the city’s bottom line, “The new franchise fee for the city is estimated to generate $376,000,” states a news release about the price hike to come.
In the prepared statements, Assistant City Manager Bill Atkinson said, “When we initially started discussions in 2007 about a solid waste contract program, we determined that after the program was firmly established, we would add a franchise fee for all residential and commercial customers in the city, similar to other cities.”
As announced, the five percent fee to be assessed is based on fiscal management guidelines found in the city’s 2013 General Fund Budget.
“Details on the proposed fee will be presented to City Council in September and residents and business owners can expect to see the service charge on their statements in the second quarter,” the city’s Public Information Manager Stacie Walker told the “Star” without confirming the effective date. Second quarter probably means the one starting this October since the city’s prepared statements refer to the second quarter of fiscal year 2013, presumably its current fiscal year which started this past July. So both residents and businesses will probably see the increase this year on their solid waste service bills.
Missouri City already has franchise fee agreements with Comcast, UVerse and CenterPoint, which it states are for compensation for their use of the city’s public roadways. According to the city, the agreements generally require a utility company to pay costs based on a percentage of gross receipts. At this stage, some critics want to know why a solid waste company itself will not pay the franchise costs from the money it makes, and yet another one is claiming that the cost increase looks like a new tax that a company is charging on behalf of the city, “acting like a buffer,” he said.
Walker said that the fee will be assessed to all providers, including Republic Services, “and customers will see it reflected on statements they receive from their billing entities.” She also said the proposed solid waste franchise fee will also be charged to subdivisions that participate in the Municipal Solid Waste Program.
As for the city’s budget, the money from the franchise fee, according to Atkinson, “will be instrumental in helping staff to meet the essential priorities of public safety, economic growth and infrastructure improvements set by City Council and our citizens.”