High stakes with Shreveport trash fee proposal

High stakes with Shreveport trash fee proposal

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - There are major concerns about the future of a proposed sanitation fee for the city of Shreveport.

It turns out, the stakes are far higher than people may realize, and far beyond just the cost of garbage pick up if city leaders cannot come to an understanding soon.

Several sources confirm that if the city council cannot settle on a workable fee, it could threaten the funding of other critical city services down the road.

Not long after the Shreveport City Council soundly rejected Mayor Adrian Perkins’ proposed $18 a month sanitation fee, 6-to-1 Tuesday night, councilman John Nickelson offered an amended version with a $13 a month garbage fee instead.

But to hear Nickelson tell it, even the lower fee could be a tough sell to the council and to the public.

“I don’t think there are four votes on the council for a 13 dollar fee. I don’t know where we’re going to end up on that. But my goal is going to be to get it as close to 13 dollars as we can.”

Right after Tuesday’s city council meeting, we reached out to Mayor Perkins. Neither then nor on this next day was the mayor available for an on-camera interview.

But City Spokesman Ben Riggs said the mayor worries if $13 will be enough, especially looking at long term solutions.

“Projected for $13 is not going to be an adequate amount. They’re going to have to return and increase the amount sooner rather than later.”

Riggs said he’s also cautious about an enterprise fund, which is part of Nickelson’s proposal.

Such a fund must be self-sufficient, requiring its own cash reserves, which Riggs contends will cost taxpayers more, possibly requiring at least a $15 fee.

Riggs said it’s not a question of if the sanitation fee will go forward. He told us it is happening. The only question is just how much it will be. And he explained many people may not fully realize the high stakes involved here.

He pointed to the city’s 2018 budget as an example, when they counted on reserves to make it balanced.

But with just a 1 percent operating reserve right now, Riggs concluded that’s nowhere near the amount of money to help fill a budget gap if needed, or risk having to cut essential city services later in the year.

Riggs has also warned that not having enough money in cash reserves could threaten to lower the city’s bond rating. Some at city hall fear it could fall from an A to an A-minus.

He said that may not seem like much until you consider the next step down is considered junk bond status.Copyright 2019 KSLA. All rights reserved.