Napanee Council votes to continue bag tags via tax levy

Photo via Town of Greater Napanee website.

Bag tags are here to stay, Napanee… at least for 2024.

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee voted in favour of keeping the current mail-out system for bag tags, which has been in place since April 25, 2023 when Council voted in favour of a $200 tax levy for garbage pickup, despite the system being vehemently opposed by several citizens.

Council received a report titled “Funding of the Curbside Collection for Garbage and Recycling in 2024” and directed Town staff to prepare a budget that includes a special tax levy for residential property owners for 50 bag tags at $4 per tag, with the tags to be mailed out with the tax bills in January 2024.

The Special Tax Levy for the Curbside Collection of Garbage and Recycling was implemented for Greater Napanee residents in 2023. In June 2023, property owners were issued 25 bag tags for each residential property they owned, to be used from July 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023; a $100 special tax levy was added to their tax bills. 

In 2023, the report explains, the levy was applied to 5,902 residential properties; at $100 each, this brought in a total revenue of $590,200, which was applied to curbside collection costs but did not fully fund the program.

The staff report notes that in 2024, the $200 levy can be applied to a minimum of 5,902 residential properties. The total revenue of $1,180,400 can be applied to the curbside collection costs, which are budgeted at $1,414,246 for both garbage and recycling in 2024. 

The discussion began about four hours and twenty minutes into the over five-hour special meeting, with acting Treasurer Nathan Murphy detailing the need for an expedient decision to allow tags to be mailed out with the first tax bills in the new year.

Councillor Dave Pinnell asked if Council decided to continue with the project, “that we look at the condominium townhouses… and get them on this project, as well… I don’t believe that we captured them in the last round. So I just think that there’s potential to do that, as well.”

Murphy explained that “because of the nature of their homes,” those residents had not previously been included, “but we can certainly look into that. We did get several calls from those individuals last year, saying ‘We didn’t get the tags.’ We double-checked that they didn’t receive the charge [either], but absolutely, we can look into that and the effect that would have on the overall revenue to that program.”

Next Councillor Bill Martin called attention to the number of properties being issued the levy: 5,902. “I thought we were talking 7,300 or 7,700 participating in this?” he said.

Murphy replied, “When we first started this last year, the original number we thought was going to be in that 7,000 residents range. After going through this for a year… the number was significantly lower than that. My understanding is we kind of looked at this as commercial and residential, but that classification isn’t the same as what we have for tax class. So it was applied based on tax class to the rule, which isn’t the same mechanism that we use for curbside collection.”

Martin responded, “We’re almost 2,000 missing there from the two different figures. It just seems like, with this system, we’re not capturing everybody… We are just helter-skelter… with this system.”

He also pointed out that, even if the decision was made at the current meeting, the new tags wouldn’t be mailed until late January at the earliest.

“We’re forcing people to buy a bag tag even though they don’t need it in a lot of cases now. So those folks are going to have to buy bag tags for January, and then they’re going to get mailed out bag tags. So they’re going to have extra bag tags again,” he said.

Murphy explained that the intention was to minimize the number of mailings to save on costs.

“Given this current system,” he said, “if we were to adjust this year, we would end up in the same cycle next year, at the tail end. So you’re essentially just kicking the can down the road, to some degree.”

Martin also said he thought the tag issue has caused people to do less blue box recycling: “They’re throwing blue box material into garbage now because a lot of them have so many tags and want to get rid of them… It just seems to me that instead of penalizing people for recycling, we should be encouraging them to recycle.”

Councillor Angela Hicks responded by saying the Town should “somehow convey to the general public that the service they get for a bag tag is both recycling and garbage.”

“I have repeated this I don’t know how many times: the bag tag is not just for household waste. It also covers the cost of the recycling. It’s the same company, the same pickup,” she said. “Cutting off your nose to spite your face and putting all of your recycling into a garbage bag is doing a disservice to everyone; you’re not proving a point. I think that needs to be stressed in bold font, large letters… I’m in favour of continuing with what’s already in place.”

Martin then pointed out, “In 2025, our blue box costs are going to be eliminated. We’re not going to be paying any cost for the blue box. It’s going to be borne by the producer of the products. So we want to encourage people to recycle, to get everything we can out of garbage and into recycling.”

He added that he hoped that the Town would move toward a green box program in the meantime.

Hicks put the motion on the floor, but first said to Martin, “Bill, it’s education… of the public, the general public. If you read Facebook and you listen to people standing in line at the grocery store, they all have so many bags, they don’t know what to do with them.”

The motion passed with only Martin opposed.

As always, you can read full Council meeting agendas on Napanee’s civic web online, and watch meetings live or recorded on the town’s YouTube channel.

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