At last night's Hazleton City Council meeting self-proclaimed taxpayer watchdog Dee Deakos produced "her" research regarding the impact of Hazleton's increase in its garbage fee to Hazleton residents.
According to this article written by Steve Mocarsky of the Times Leader Dee Deakos, a political foe of Barletta and a member of the Hazleton Taxpayers Association, said her research shows that the increase will result in about $361,000 in extra revenue beyond the actual cost of garbage collection.
An examination of the entire garbage situation in Hazleton will paint a much different picture than Dee's presentation.
Hazleton's contract with Mascaro & Sons commenced in 2008. It is a five year deal worth approximately $10 million dollars to J.P. Mascaro & Sons.
For the year 2010 the actual price is $2,002,620.00. However one must add the cost of mailing and collecting the garbage fee contracted to Don Wilkinson and Son which is about $45,000.00. Therefore the total cost to Hazleton is $2,047,620. If one divides that amount by the number of household units served of 10,300 the cost per unit is $198.80.
According to Mocarsky's article the current fee is $204.00 which, on the surface sounds about right. The new fee passed by Hazleton's City Council raises that fee to $240.00.
What Deakos didn't present in her argument was the correct figure for bad debt. It is curious that she had all the other figures in her research but "assumed" a 5% bad debt figure in her analysis.
The real figure for last year was $513,000.00 in bad debt or approximately 25%, not five percent.
Deakos proffered to the crowd that the increased fee would result in an extra $361,000.00 beyond what the contract cost. Looking at what the contract cost vs. what is the reality of fee collection paints a much different picture. The increase fails to cover all of the cost of the bad debt, thus the payment the city makes and is obligated to pay to Mascaro.
As of this date the City of Hazleton owes Mascaro approixmately $500,000.00 in unpaid contractural monies. If one adds the bad debt of $513,000.00 plus the $500,000.00 the City is behind over $1 million dollars in its garbage budget line item. It is very clear that $361,000.00 will not erase that shortfall.
On the issue of bad debt, it is SOP's Opinion that Wilkinson failed miserably to properly collect the fee as well as deliquent accounts. Just last week the City of Hazleton turned over the deliquent accounts to a collection agency. Even if the agency is 100% successful that amount collected cannot help this year's garbage fee as it is needed to erase the shortfall of $1 million.
SOP is not unaware of the impact to seniors and low-income households with such an increase. That assessment takes SOP back to the sale of the HCA. If that sale proceeds to fruition the hike in property taxes as well as the garbage fees will more than likely be rolled back to previous levels.
If you want to read a study about the "Evaluating Solid Waste Collection Options" click on this link to the New York State Office of the State Comptroller. The present system employed by the City of Hazleton to contract for refuse collection as a means of cost savings is validated on that site.