NF Garbage Collection is a Mandatory Public Health Necessity – And YOU Already Pay for it!

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By: Ken Hamilton

For cities with garbage fees, like Albany, Troy and soon, maybe even Niagara Falls NY, it really makes no difference to the city’s books, they still balance. Get the trash collection costs from a tax or a fee, the same kind of dollars flow into the city’s coffers.  But for you it makes a big difference at tax time.

IRS Topic Number 503 – Deductible Taxes, says that some taxes and fees you can’t deduct on Schedule A include federal income taxes, social security taxes, transfer taxes (or stamp taxes) on the sale of property, homeowner’s association fees, estate and inheritance taxes, and service charges for water, sewer, or trash collection.  So then, when will street sweeping become a service charge, because they did sweep in front of your house for you?

 
And see that sycamore tree whose roots lifted the sidewalk in front of your house and you had to pay to fix the sidewalk before someone tripped on it and sued you – if you didn’t report it to the city’s legal department by registered letter before the tripping occurred.  Well, because you are responsible for the maintenance of the median where the tree sits between the sidewalk and the street, if the city comes to remove the tree, would one day you get the thousands of dollars cost billed to you? If that same tree tears up a sewer or water pipe, you are already responsible to pay for it and any costs incur when an overloaded truck goes down your city street and crushes that same sewer line.
 
No one knows at this time. “My whole thing about the garbage fee is the same problem that I have with the administration, and that is a lack of transparency,” said rising-star community activist Donta Myles.  “Will I have to pay the tax if I am renting out an apartment?” he said. “I called one of my city councilmen to ask the questions, but no one has the answer yet. What do I get out of it,” he continued, “Will we have better services from the kind of money that you will be charging.”
 
Myles continued with other valid questions like, but this one is one that scares a lot of people. “Will there be a vote on it before it is rolled out, or will they do a Dyster move and wait until the last minute and then drop the bomb again?”
 
No one knows, Donta; but what we do know that the only tax write-offs anyone can do on having property is writing off the taxes associated with the assessed value of property – and the garbage fees do not qualify.  Property tax write-offs must be associated with property values, but cities like Albany and Troy gives exemptions to residents who are under an enhanced Star Program.  That means that senior citizens, veterans and perhaps others can get an exemption altogether from any garbage fees.  But don’t you believe that it is because they love you.  Star is a tax reduction program and the imposition of such properties may be seen as a tax increase that may cause cities from going over the tax cap.

So then, is any of this fair?

 
Even as a war veteran that has a tax exemption, I would say no.  Fair is fair.  Albany and Troy charges by the house, and not by the person (you know, “the person” – those flesh bagged, carbon units that the US Census Bureau count every 10-years for voting purposes; those things like you and me that actually create the trash).  So, your neighbor next door might had eight kids and several pets, and you live alone and have only enough garbage to fill one of those little plastic shopping bags that Albany hates, and you are paying the same amount that they are.

Let’s get real.  We learned from that Bubonic Plague that ravished Europe in the Middle Ages that sewage and trash collection is a public health and safety issue that actually saves society money, regardless of its price simply because it costs too much not to do it. 

 So then, are our elected officials out of their minds and not understand what a city is? In the words of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan when she rolled out their garbage fees in 2016.  According to WTEN Television, she said, “We’re not looking to make money on this; we’re looking to start to offset the cost to the city of providing this service.”

I can’t quite see it that way.

Troy’s exemptions can be found at: http://www.troyny.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Troy-Solid-Waste-Collection-Fee-Exemption-Application-2018.pdf

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