Atlanta's Trash Fees Pile Up

Atlanta -- The city of Atlanta has accumulated an estimated $30 million in uncollected trash fees from residents in the past four years. To collect the fees, the city is providing an incentive -- it will waive penalties on overdue fees for residents who pay at least 20 percent of their overdue bills by December 28, 2001. The remainder would be due on May 1, 2002. Those who do not pay, according to the city, will be reported to credit rating bureaus.

The unpaid bills charged to residents include services for weekly garbage pickup, recycling, bulk rubbish collection, seasonal grass-cutting collections and road-sweeping. The average residential bill is $309, which used to be included under residents' property taxes but was stopped in 1998 when Fulton Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand refused to foreclose on homes to collect for garbage service. Since then, the program has billed residents separately, an estimated $44 million per year, for garbage collection services, $30 million of which remains unpaid.

Although incentive is provided, some city council members are not convinced that the plan will work on such short notice.