SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - "Twelve dollars?!" Shreveport resident Mary Lee Clinton cried out.
She was shocked to hear about the proposed fee to go toward the city's solid waste enterprise fund.
It's a proposal that, if approved and placed in next year's budget, would cost her and other residents $12 a month for garbage pickup.
Clinton, who is in her 80s, has spent the past year with a caved-in front porch on the house off Hilry Huckaby Drive that she's called home for 60 years.
"When you don't have no help, you can't do everything."
Shreveport leaders report the city spends $8.1 million a year on garbage pickups.
City Council Chairman Willie Bradford said the $12 fee would bring in $9 million a year to cover that.
It also would help the city give a 5 percent raise to each municipal worker who make less than $80,000 annually, he said. "Most of our employees at the city, except for police and firemen, have not received a cost-of-living raise in 8-10 years."
Under the proposal, 2,700 - or 96 percent - of the city's 2,800 employees would get the raise.
Money generated by the $12 monthly fee also would go toward fixing streets, Bradford said.
It could come down to just an extra bill in the mail, he said. "Generating 2 bills: a bill for solid waste and then a bill for the water bill."
Still, Clinton said, $12 is too costly.
"That is too much. We already pay $2.50 for that blue can," she said, nodding toward her recycling bin.
"We ain't supposed to pay people's salaries, I don't think."
Bradford said the city surveyed sanitation fees in nearby cities and parishes and found all to be higher than Shreveport's proposal.
Following are those monthly rates listed from highest to lowest:
- New Orleans: $36
- Bossier and Caddo parishes: $30.05
- Alexandria: $28
- Dallas: $24.67
- Little Rock, Ark.: $24.10
- Bossier City: $24
- Jackson, Miss.: $20.80
- Baton Rouge: $20
- Monroe, LA: $16
"We're not going to force this on anybody," Bradford told KSLA News 12. "We're just looking at other cities, progressive cities that have made these types of adjustments so that they can grow their city."
City Council members held a special budget meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the mayor's conference room in Government Plaza. They discussed the fee but made no decision.
During that meeting, other council members asked if there were any alternatives that could be proposed. Some suggested amending the garbage pickup fee proposal. Others suggested cutting the budget more instead of imposing the fee.
Citizens at the meeting voiced a mixed response to the fee proposal. Some asked for no more fees or taxes. Others were accepting of the fee if it meant city employees getting a raise.
Bradford told KSLA News 12 that members of the public are invited to the mayor's conference room later this month to continue voicing their concerns on all facets of the city's 2017 budget proposal. Those budget sessions will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 29 and from 2 p.m. until discussions end Oct. 30.
Shreveport's charter requires the City Council to take its final vote on the 2017 budget proposal Dec. 15.
Mayor Ollie Tyler said the city can balance its budget without the $12-a-month garbage pickup fee. "I don't have any fears. We're going to make it work for the city."
However, she added, city employees would not receive a pay raise if the fee is omitted from the budget. "The employees won't get a raise because we don't have the funding. As I said in the meeting today, we lost about $2 million from 2015 and 2016."