OCEANSIDE — A Feb. 2 proposal by Councilman Gary Felien to reduce city trash fees, eliminate the Waste Management franchise fee and sock away money in the rate stabilization fund was met with protest from more than 80 speakers who did not want to repurpose more than $1.7 million a year, which now goes into the general fund.
The motion failed in a 2-2 vote, in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no and Councilman Jack Feller abstained.
Felien argued that the franchise fee paid to the city is an unnecessary tax.
“The franchise fee isn’t really a fee, but it’s a tax,” Felien said. “The fee is packed in with the trash rate. I want to make sure the money goes back to the taxpayers.”
The city attorney defined the money as a collector’s fee. After recent waste hauling negotiations, a minimum of $1.7 million a year is paid by Waste Management to the city’s general fund.
Felien proposed the $1.7 million change take place in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. “My motion is not cutting any city services,” Felien said.
While the current budget would not be affected, speakers saw that future budgets will likely have less funding and services may be cut. Citizens spoke up for the Brook Street Swim Center, after-school programs, youth sports and senior centers.
“You can drive around a pothole but you can’t swim in an empty pool,” Joan Brubraker, an Oceanside resident, said.
“The attendance tonight should tell you something,” Jerry McLeod, an Oceanside resident, said. “We don’t want the pool closed, we don’t want the rec centers closed. Keep your hands off of us.”
Bill Reed, president of the Soccer Club of Oceanside, reported that the club serves 2,300 kids and their families.
Viessa Lyons, of the Senior Citizens Commission, brought a protest letter signed by 317 concerned seniors.
There was also strong protest from citizens who did not use the services, but saw their value to the community. “I haven’t participated in any little league program, or senior program, but they’re important to people,” Jim Hamilton, an Oceanside resident, said. “I see no benefit in further cuts. Every cut has to be stopped.”
Many said they did not want the small reduction in their trash bills when the loss in funds could cost the city community services.
“Please do not reduce my trash bill,” Mike Bullock, an Oceanside resident said. “For $1.55 a month, please keep the franchise fee.”
After hearing speakers’ opposition Felien and Councilman Jerry Kern still voted yes. “The only way we can make the budget is to make the cuts,” Kern said. “If we keep this money in the general fund a lot of the same people here will be saying, ‘Why are you raising our trash rates?’ We’re heroes up here when we spend money, until we’re out of money.”