Below is a Times Union article discussing the Albany trash fee
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ALBANY — A group that represents local rental property owners says it won’t sue to block Albany’s new $180-per-unit trash fee on small apartment buildings because most landlords will just pass the fee onto their tenants.
John Keenan, president of the Capital District Association of Rental Property Owners, was one of three people who spoke at a Tuesday morning public hearing before Mayor Kathy Sheehan was expected to sign the controversial fee into law later in the day.
Sheehan’s office counters that the law does treat all property owners equally because every property, including apartment buildings up to four units, receives one free pick-up per week. The change is that landlords are now being charged for any additional units beyond the first one.
It is a distinction that seems unlikely to be tested in court — at least at this point.
Keenan said CDARPO would not spend the resources to challenge the law and doubted any individual landlords would either because they have the option of passing the annual charge onto their tenants by raising rents.
“I think the power is at the voting booth,” Keenan, an attorney from Voorheesville, said after the hearing.
Large companies that own rental properties with more than four units are already required to pay for private trash collection, meaning they’re unlikely to join any legal fight to aid the owners of two-to-four-unit buildings impacted by the new law, he said.
It was not clear whether tenants, who are not being directly charged by the city, would have standing to sue if their landlords raised their rents.
Because every building gets one free pick-up per week, the most a property owner would pay is $540 for a fully-rented four-unit building. Property owners are allowed to opt out of the fee by hiring a private trash hauler, and there are other exemptions built in for buildings owned and occupied by senior citizens and the disabled who meet income standards.
Sheehan said she understands the anger felt by rental property owners but that the city needed to take a first step toward recouping some of the nearly $5 million annual cost of trash collection as Albany struggles with a large budget deficit and the looming closure of the Rapp Road landfill in 2021.
After that, the city will not only lose its landfill income but also be forced to pay for the disposal of its own trash elsewhere.
Over the coming months, a committee will study other options for recouping those costs that are more directly tied to the amount of trash residents produce, such as the systems used by cities like Utica and Binghamton known as pay-as-you-throw.
That could include charging property owners by the size of the trash barrel they put out or requiring them to buy city-issued trash bags. Those systems, however, take time and money to study and implement, and the city needs the $1.5 million in revenue projected from the new fee this year, Sheehan said.
The fee, passed earlier this month by the Common Council, expires in 2019. But 11th Ward Councilman Judd Krasher said he plans to introduce legislation Feb. 1 that would repeal it in 2017.
“This is the first step in a longer-term plan,” Sheehan said. “We have to make difficult decisions. That is the challenge we’re facing.”
Property owners should receive their first notices on the fee after Feb. 1.
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