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Mayor targets fees, taxes for cuts

Mayor Jim Paine has plans to reduce garbage fees and cut the tax levy utilizing the terminal tax paid to the state by Enbridge and returned to Superior.

The first goal is to take on the landfill ordinance, adopted in 2015 with a built-in fee increase that would go into effect Jan. 1, Paine said.

The ordinance would raise the cost from the current $7.75 per month to $9.75 per month.

"What I want to do is first repeal that so it doesn't go up next year and reduce the landfill fee from $7.75 to to $7," Paine said. "Our projections for the life of the landfill and the health of the fund say that we should be able to afford that just fine."

Part of the way the city will pay for the reduction is changing the way commercial garbage is handled, Paine said.

"If you have a commercial property, we will still supply up to four cans, but we're going to charge by the can now instead of the unit," Paine said.

That means the owner of an eight-unit apartment building will only be charged for the cans — rather than the number of apartments, resulting in a discount for some of the larger commercial property owners, Paine said. Those cans will cost $11 per month, he said.

"I really hope and expect that to pass this year," Paine said.

Another goal the mayor has is to develop an ordinance that would lay out the distribution for the terminal tax the city receives annually.

Currently, most of the terminal tax goes to the city's capital improvement program (CIP), which pays for infrastructure and other long-term projects, with some of the revenue going to the city's economic development fund and the general fund.

"The Council has really struggled with what to do with it each year, especially when it comes to sending it to the general fund," Paine said. "So what I would like to do is set in ordinance a specific percentage to go to each part of the city financials. A certain percentage will go to the CIP — the majority of it — and a sizeable percentage of it will go to the general fund ... it starts floating all boats. Everyone gets a benefit."

This year, the council expanded its CIP to take advantage of growing revenue from the terminal tax to invest in the city projects. Paine said his plan won't change that.

"It has been going up, far outside of our projections, pretty much every year," Paine said. "What that means is if we pass this ordinance and it goes up higher than projected, which it probably will, then I can use that money to reduce the levy — start shifting the burden from property ... owners and more on the terminal tax, which is very, very healthy."

Paine said when terminal tax revenue has been higher than projected, money has just been left in the CIP. He said last year, that figure was an extra $1.2 million, which was used to pay down the city's debt for Kestral Aircraft.

Paine said while the city could pay for extra projects or cost overruns, "the taxpayers should get a benefit, and they haven't been."

Superior's Finance Committee was slated to begin discussions on the issue Thursday night, after press time, but Paine said it will be a process.

"It's not a guarantee," Paine said. "There's not a guarantee that the Council will pass it and there's not a guarantee we will get an increase in that revenue. But the trend is that it has been increasing ... I'm optimistic, but we won't know the numbers for a few months."

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