City ups garbage rates, OKs budget

Published 11:45 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Andalusia City Council this week suspended its rules to approve an immediate increase in garbage rates and agreed to adopt a moratorium on the previously approved cost of living raise for its employees. The changes were necessary, Mayor Earl Johnson said, to make the numbers work in the city’s $12.6 million budget for the current fiscal year.

The garbage rate increase is effective this month and raises rates from $10 per month for each 90-gallon hobo to $13 per month. The rate will automatically increase to $15 per month in two years under the terms of the ordinance approved.

Johnson said the increases are the first in garbage rates in about eight years.

Johnson recommended that the council increase garbage rates from $10 per month for each 90-gallon hobo to $13 per month, and to $15 per month in two years. The rate has not been increased in eight years, he said.

The increase would generate $160,000 in revenue in one year, he said. A survey of similar cities showed Andalusia’s current garbage rates among the lowest.

The ordinance also increases garbage rates for businesses and landfill rates by a comparable amount, or approximately 30 percent.

Council members said they approved the measure “with reluctance.”

“I hate to do this,” Council member Hazel Griffin said.

Council member Terry Powell said the city’s personnel costs have increased 26 percent in the last eight years, not including employee insurance and benefits.

“When you add fuel costs to that, the increase is not out of the realm of reasonable based on the past eight years.

Council member Kennith Mount said none of the council members took the garbage increase decision lightly.

“We don’t want to increase this, but we have to,” he said. “This is one of the hard choices we’ve got to make.”

The last administration had approved a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment for employees. When the new administration began working on the budget about a month ago, it became clear they would have to reconsider that promise.

“When they voted, tax revenue was still going up,” Johnson said. “Now our revenues are flat at best.”

Employees who have worked for the city less than 20 years get a step raise every year. In addition, the last administration agreed to bear the burden of increases to health insurance.