Text from article in Owen Sound Sun Times on November 10, 2015

(http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2015/11/10/bag-tag-hike-debate-back-in-owen-sound)

Bag tag hike debate back in Owen Sound
by Denis Langlois
Coun. Richard Thomas has suggested the city significantly hike the cost of garbage bag tags — by a dollar
a year until each sticker costs $5 — to fully offset the added expense of a proposed green bin program.
“I think this is one of those cases where we can have a program that can truly pay for itself,” he said
Tuesday in an interview.
People can reduce the amount they spend on the tags annually, he said, by taking full advantage of the
city’s recycling and organics programs.
On the flip side, Coun. Scott Greig said he will not support any increase to the current $2.50 bag tag fee.
“The underlying reason is any bag tag increase hurts those people who are least able to afford it,” he
said.
Greig said homeowners can counterbalance the added cost on their property taxes of the source
separated organics program by reducing by about 15 the number of bag tags they need to purchase
each year, which he said is possible through the organics program.
Even on city council, opinions on bag tag fee increases vary significantly.
The always contentious discussion has resurfaced in Owen Sound, as council moves towards
implementing a green bin program for 2016.
The initiative is expected to cost the city an extra $218,000 a year.
Council has agreed, in principle, to begin the program in June, subject to successful negotiations
between the city and both Miller Waste — the company that submitted the low bid to do the city’s
waste management programs — and Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth, which own a biodigester near
Owen Sound that can accept kitchen and yard waste.
But how to cover the added cost — whether through increasing bag tag fees or commercial waste
surcharges, putting the expense on the tax base or a combination of both — still has to be discussed by
council, which asked Monday for a staff report on potential options.
City manager Wayne Ritchie said he expects that conversation will take place during the next budget
meeting Dec. 2.
Coun. Jim McManaman, a councillor since 2003, said charging for bag tags has been a controversial issue
since the stickers were introduced in 1999. Discussions on fee increases over the years have also been
contentious.

The per-tag fee was last increased in 2011 when council approved a 50-cent hike to help offset an
expected jump in waste management costs.
City staff estimate that increasing the fee to $2.75 and hiking a commercial waste surcharge by $1 a
tonne would drop the net cost of the organics program from $218,000 to $186,000 a year.
McManaman said council must examine all opportunities to fund the proposed organics program.
“If you don’t collect enough through a bag tag garbage system, taxes would have to go up. So it’s a
balancing act,” he said.
McManaman said the organics program will allow residents to significantly cut down on the amount of
trash they put in garbage bags, perhaps by as much as 50 per cent.
So, with the program in place, residents will likely spend less money each year on bag tags than they do
now even if the cost of each tag goes up to $3, he said.
Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce Grey, said she worries about the
impact of another bag tag fee hike on low-income residents and families, especially those with young
children.
“Increasing the cost of a core service will effect those households the most,” she said.
At a budget meeting this week, several councillors brought up ways to cover the added cost of the
proposed organics program.
Thomas admitted his idea of immediately boosting bag tag fees to $3 apiece and to $4 next year and $5
the year after is radical.
But, he said, councillors were elected to look for ways to keep a lid on property tax increases.