Residents of the City of Belleville are invited to attend the next meeting of the city council at 7:30 p.m., Monday, May 16, to give their opinions on how often[…]

Residents of the City of Belleville are invited to attend the next meeting of the city council at 7:30 p.m., Monday, May 16, to give their opinions on how often they want to be billed for trash and water.
The residents also will get an explanation of why their trash bills are going up from $15.30 a month to $20.73.
At Monday’s regular meeting of the city council, Mayor Pro Tem Ken Voigt said he didn’t want to vote on that price hike at that meeting but wanted to have residents come in and comment first.
He said he isn’t happy about having to pay $5 more a month, either.
The city’s financial consultant Kelly Howey of Plante Moran explained that the last time city rates had been raised for trash pickup was Oct 3, 2011.
She said the Sanitation Fund is funded by user fees, which are estimated at $203,000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year at the current monthly user rate of $15.30.
She said the Sanitation Fund expenditures include payments to the contractors; DPW time; and administrative time related to billing users, postage, collection and recording of user fees, payment of contractor invoices, negotiation of contractor contract, and time spent with residents on sanitation-related issues.
She said Sanitation Fund expenditures are estimated to be $275,000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year. A monthly user rate increase of 35.5% would allow the Sanitation Fund to break even. This increase would bring the monthly user rate to $20.73.
She said the Sanitation Fund is an enterprise fund, but the city has been paying the difference in cost with taxpayer funds.
“It seems like a lot,” said Brian Camiller from Plante Moran, “but you are spending more than what you’re bringing in now. It’s time to catch up.” He suggested the city adjust the cost every year or every other year as the vendor raises its rates.
DPW Director Rick Rutherford said the last time the city went out for bids, the current vendor, Republic Services, was the very best on prices.
Howey said if the city had passed on the rates as they rose each year, customers would be paying $19.30, a steady raise of 3% a year.
Mayor Kerreen Conley said she thought the city wasn’t going to keep increases in rates from users, but maybe that had just been for water rates.
City Manager/Police Chief Dave Robinson said they should look at this every single year. It’s a user fee and the city coordinates it and bills for it.
“Deficit spending doesn’t work for me,” Chief Robinson said.
Mayor Conley said that they have to send the message out to residents that they haven’t raised trash-pickup rates for 11 years.
Without the raise, the general fund would have to pay $75,000.
Peggy Voigt said from the audience that since they are billing bi-monthly now, the increase on each bill would be $10.
Mayor Pro Tem Voigt said he thinks they should seriously think of going back to monthly billings. He said COVID’s over and they should go back to monthly billings, which are easier for someone on a fixed income.
“This is a user fee,” said Tom Fielder from the audience. “Only those people who use the service pay for it. Those with private services, such as businesses, don’t.”
Voigt said the city has roads to replace and a new city hall to think about because the current one is falling down. He said they don’t want to cut police officers or a duty crew for the fire department.
Mayor Conley said the contract with Republic is for the next three years and the city can expect a smaller increase next year.
Fielder said services like leaf pickup continue and Mayor Conley added if Republic misses picking something up, residents can call them and they’ll come back.
“I would like to hear what people think,” Voigt said.
Mayor Conley said she would like to know what it looks like at the front counter. Are there problems or hardships? She said if a good portion of the population wants to go back to monthly billing, they should look at it. She wondered if the timing offsets some other work.
Chief Robinson said he’s been going through the departments looking for efficiencies. He said the city clerk pulls from the two clerks in front to help on projects. He said monthly billing would add more costs to the city.
He said when Victory Station gets upgraded people will use it more and if there’s a senior center put in there, the city will need someone to be in there or check in.
“I’ve never lived in a community that billed less than quarterly,” Chief Robinson said.
“If we could find a way to decrease the cost of credit card payments, we wouldn’t see anyone here,” Mayor Conley said, referring to the $8 per transaction is costs now.
Chief Robinson said the city could change vendors.
Fire fighter Chris Zweng said his credit card bill in Sumpter costs 3% of the bill.
Peggy Voigt asked about paperless billing and Ken Voigt said that would drag the city into the 1990s.
Camiller said the city wants people to pay with credit cards because it’s easier for the city. He said the city could bake the fee into the bill.
Mayor Conley said the council wants to hear what the people think about the rate increase and how often they want billings.
“Don’t ask them if they want a rate increase,” said Fire Chief Loranger. “You have to raise it.”
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:
• Approved the Boy Scout Troop 793 flower sale at Fourth Street Square from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Mother’s Day, May 8 as a fund raiser;
• Approved the Plante Moran update of billing. Camiller said the rates had been the same since 2015. There was a fixed fee for two days a week, plus $15,000 for the audit. Now they are selling hours of service, which they went with as of the pandemic and there are no fixed fees. He said they had worked an average of 2.5 days a week. He said Howey gets $160-$165 per hour and he gets $300 an hour. They are offering Belleville a blended rate of $130/hour, with an inflation factor every year. Estimates showed an $18,000 increase this year, with $8,000 of that extra for the general fund. Services wouldn’t be any different;
• Heard Chief Robinson report that the building next door to city hall should be taken down any day now because the contractor has warned them to move any parked cars away from that area;
• Heard Voigt thank the BYC for its yearly cleanup. He announced the senior banners would be put up on Saturday by three crews; and
• Discussed the traffic hazard that is growing at the new construction on Main Street at the bridge. Rutherford said they should wait until the construction wraps up before putting up no-left-turn signs or right-turn-only signs for drivers leaving or entering the Main Street entrance.

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