Churchill residents to receive bills for garbage collection

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Churchill residents will face another change in their garbage service next year: They will receive individual bills for garbage collection.

Instead of having the borough pay for garbage collection through tax revenue, residents will be billed about $12 a month for garbage pickup. This change, approved Tuesday, follows the decision last month to provide voluntary curbside recycling collections.

Council members who supported the change say under the current system, wealthier residents pay a higher proportion of garbage removal fees because they pay higher tax rates. Under the new system, Allied Republic will bill each household the same amount.

"If you like a flat tax, this is the closest we get to a flat tax," Councilman Ray Jurewicz said. The board voted 4-3 to approve the motion allowing Allied to bill residents for waste removal and recycling; Cheryl McAbee, Rick Kline and Lawrence Lepidi dissented.

Council also approved advertising the proposed amendment to the garbage ordinance. The borough solicitor said last month that an "empowerment clause" in the borough ordinance allows Churchill to approve the contract and individual billing before voting on the amendment.

In addition, council approved advertising an ordinance to set the tax rate at 4.32 mills for 2013.

The five-year contract with Allied Republic includes biweekly recycling pickup. Residents will not have to sort recyclables; they can be tossed into one bin starting in April.

State law requires curbside recycling in municipalities with more than 5,000 people. Because Churchill has fewer than 4,000 residents, it would take a local ordinance to make recycling mandatory. While participation in the recycling plan will still be voluntary, all residents will pay the same rate if they use the recycling service or not.

The board presented the first draft of the 2013 budget, but several members noted uncertainty over Allegheny County property assessments will make the task difficult because of the appeal of the value of the large Westinghouse complex.

In the current draft of the budget, the millage rate would go from 5.75 mills to 4.32 mills. But because some residents saw the value of their properties increase dramatically as a result of countywide property reassessments, some may see a hike in their tax bill despite a lower millage rate.

Anti-windfall laws require taxing bodies to be "revenue neutral," meaning the amount of revenue generated by property tax millage can't increase as a result of reassessments. As a result, municipalities where the overall assessed value of property has gone up must reduce property taxes.

"While the millage rate will be lower ... any given resident might not see a decrease" in his tax bill, Mr. Lepidi said.

neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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