Refuse/Recycle Fee


During the Committee of the Whole meeting on November 12, 2012, the Common Council discussed the budget impacts that included the recycling program.  The Alders at that time recommended the City provide a separate container for recyclables to eliminate the recyclables being scattered in the streets. A motion was passed to add $5 per month to the Kaukauna Utilities bill for a 12-month period.

Around the same time, the City made the commitment to purchase an automated garbage truck to allow for efficiency  in operations. A garbage route that had staffed two employees would now only take one staff member.  The DPW area did not hire a replacement for this position in a cost saving measure through attrition.

A law change happened in 2013.  This law change allowed the fee mentioned above to cover items associated with the operations such as maintenance on the truck, operating expenses, and tipping fees at the landfill to dispose of the collected garbage.  With this change, the Council back in 2013 decided to make the fee permanent to help cover the cost of the service ahead of the change to the Wisconsin State Statute 66.0602(2m)(b)1.

Every house in the City has a garbage and recycling container. Regardless of the amount disposed each week, the container is emptied. Having a flat fee assessed to each home allows equality for each homeowner. Whereas, if no fee were charged and the revenue from the fee was covered through the tax rate, homes valued higher would be paying more for the same service. There is an analysis on the use of this fee below.  Along with the analysis, is a frequently asked question (FQA) that the League of Wisconsin Municipalities magazine published in the December 2020 edition.

The $5 per month shows up on each homeowners Kaukauna Utilities bill as Refuse/Recycling Fee. This fee is then passed over to the City to cover the cost mentioned above.

Garbage Collection and Recycling FAQs

Curt Witynski, JD, Deputy Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities  (December 2020 Edition)

  1. Must municipalities provide garbage collection services? While cities and villages have traditionally and historically provided garbage collection services to their residents, Wisconsin municipalities are not required by law to do so and indeed many, mainly small, communities do not provide such a service. While large communities tend to use their own employees and equipment to collect solid waste, many medium and small communities’ contract with private haulers for such services.
  2. What about recycling? Must communities collect recyclables? Every city and village is required to administer their own recycling collection program or contract with another local government (also known as a responsible unit under the recycling law) to manage the recycling program within the community. Wisconsin Stat.§ 287.09.
  3. May a municipality provide garbage collection services for some classes of property but not others? Wis. Stat. § 66.0405 expressly provides that “cities, villages, and towns may remove…. garbage and rubbish from such classes of places in the city, village, or town as the board or council directs.” The statute further states that “Districts may be created and removal provided for certain districts only, and different regulations may be applied to each removal district or class of property. “This statute has been interpreted by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to provide municipalities with substantial discretion in creating classifications for garbage pickup. For example, in Rubin v. City of Wauwatosa,’ the court of appeals upheld the city’s garbage program, which in 1983 involved picking up garbage from residential and commercial properties, but not industrial. Also, the city used its general fund to pay for residential garbage service and charged commercial properties a fee for the service. The city also charged residential properties special charges to pick up large items like appliances. The court upheld all aspects of the city’s program against challenges based on lack of authority and equal protection arguments. Similarly, the Court of Appeals upheld the City of Racine’s decision to not provide solid waste, pickup for buildings containing five or more dwelling units. _Carpenter v. Commissioner  of Public Works of the City of Racine.’ For a more detailed discussion of these cases, see League legal opinion Ordinances & Resolutions #438.
  4. How can communities pay for garbage and recycling collection services? The cost of a garbage and/ or recycling collection program may be paid for out of a community’s general fund or by charging a fee against the property served. Wisconsin Stat. § 66.0627 authorizes a municipality to charge for various “current services” including “garbage and refuse disposal” and “recycling.”
  5. When a community shifts from paying for garbage collection services through the property tax to a fee, is there an impact on the community’s levy limit? If a municipality adopts a new fee or a fee increase for garbage collection services which were partly or wholly funded in 2013 by property taxes, the municipality must reduce its levy limit by the amount of revenue from the new fee or fee increase. See Wisconsin Stat.§ 66.0602(2m)(b). Note, that this requirement does not apply to recycling fees. The Department of Revenue (DOR), which oversees municipal compliance with the levy limit law, interprets the term “garbage collection” in Wisconsin Stat.§ 66.0602(2m) (b), to not include recycling. Therefore, if a community adopts a new recycling fee or increases an existing recycling fee, there is no requirement that it reduce its levy limit by the amount of recycling fee revenue it collects.

Monthly Garbage Collection Fee Financial Impact Example

The below analysis has been run against the 2018 budget as well as the 2022 budget. Both results were similar in the fiscal impact.

Total Annual Revenue from $5 fee: $372,000

Annual Expenses: The expenses included to maintain the Garbage collection service at the level include:

  1. Wages and benefit of employees collecting garbage
  2. Maintenance on the trucks
  3. Fuel
  4. Tipping fees to dispose at the landfill

Levy Impact: $372,000 in revenue equates to 6.54% increase in tax levy dollars. This increase in tax levy would be needed to cover the expenses mentioned above if the $5 fee was removed.

2022 Levy was: $6,387,472

2022 Levy would have needed to be: $6,759,472

Mill Rate Impact (using the 2022 budget info): If the City only increased levy to cover the refuse/recycle fee, the levy would have increased by $372,000.  This equates to a mill rate increase of 3.9% or $0.30/$1,000 over the 2022 budget.  For the average house in Kaukauna valued at $225,000, this would equate to an additional tax payment of $67.50.

Expenditure Restraint Program: The 2022 Expenditure Restraint Program allowed the City to increase expenses by $684,143, and ultimately, the City increased expenses by only $680,626.  By being fiscally responsible, the City benefited from this program in the form of state aid of $272,742. The increased expenses covered other needs to operate the City.  If the $5 fee was removed, the expenses would need to be covered by the general fund. This would reduce the amount of funds for other services if the City desired to stay in the expenditure restraint program.  The other option, if the $5 fee was removed, would be to forgo the expenditure restraint program and lose the state aid of $272,742. However, that loss must be made up through the levy or some other revenue stream.

Levy Limit Impact: The City of Kaukauna is limited by what levy increase can happen without a referendum. The 2022 budget had an allowable levy limit increase of $616,472.