By John Lynds
On Tuesday, following nearly an hour and half of testimony from the mayor and the city’s department heads, the Lynn City Council voted in favor of raising the city’s trash fee for some homeowners as a way to raise much needed revenue.
The measure the Council voted in favor for will raise over $2 million in revenue and will exempt some homeowners from the trash fee increase. For example, a single-family owner occupied home will be exempt from the fee. However, homeowners of multi-unit properties, businesses, as well as non-profits will all be assessed a fee.
First to testify in favor of the increase was Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy explained that her administration’s ‘three tiered’ plan was structured in way to have a minimal impact on residents.
“I have constituently said that this budget would have the most minimal impact on the average tax payer in the City of Lynn as possible and retain as many of our employees as possible,” said Mayor Kennedy. “One item that could get us a substantial amount of money with one action was a trash fee.”
Mayor Kennedy said thinking along the lines of not hurting the average single-family homeowner or average resident in Lynn the plan that was devised was to have businesses and non-profits pay the most. Both these groups would see their trash fee increase by approximately $40 per month. Out of town landlords would pay the second highest increase while multi-unit homeowners would pay an increase for the units in which they do not live in. For multifamily homeowners the average increase would be about $12 per month according to Mayor Kennedy.
“We believe this is fair,” she said.
Mayor Kennedy said the increase is necessary due to a widening budget gap while trying to keep mandatory budget spending in the city like the ever increasing school budget.
The city’s school budget alone has increased from $107 million to nearly $144 million in seven years. There has also been an increase in the school population by 20 percent over the same time period.
“Year after year it’s been a strain to keep up with the mandatory budget funding at the rehired level while at the same time keeping the services on the city side at the required levels” said Mayor Kennedy. “We have been able to do this without any layoffs or substantial increase in fees. This year, the hole we are trying to close is simply too big.”
Police Chief Michael Mageary testified that if the trash fee increase did not pass he would lose 12 officers and another dozen by December. This, Chief Mageary said, would send the department into a free fall it may never recover from.
Essex County Sheriff and former Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger echoed Mageary’s sentiments and testified that if the police force is gutted it could have a ripple affect and may lead to more crime and a decrease in visitors to Lynn because they they would ‘not feel safe’.
However, Marzie Galazka was the only voice in opposition to the new trash fee and argued it was not fair to put a fee increase on the backs of landlords and opined that a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ system might be a better solution.