MSF increase – $190 per unit
The “municipal services fee” — MSF– is Wilkinsburg borough’s charge to residential properties to pay for refuse collection. Refuse collection includes garbage/trash collected by City of Pittsburgh Department of Environmental Services and recycling collected by the borough Department of Public Works. This year, the MSF bill will be $190.
At the borough council meeting last night (February 10, 2016), council voted to increase the yearly fee to $190 per unit from $180 per unit. The MSF bills will be mailed earlier this year than in previous years. If you are an owner of a Wilkinsburg property with up to five residential units, expect to receive your MSF bill for year 2016 early this spring. (Commercial properties and properties with six or more residential units contract separately for refuse service.) Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments bills and collects MSF for the borough.
The cost to the borough of the contract with City of Pittsburgh has not been covered by the MSF revenue. Finance committee chair Michael Lefebvre stated that last year the cost to the borough exceeded revenue by $70,000. MSF is billed to long-vacant, uninhabitable properties, so it should be no surprise that the total revenue received is much less than the total MSF billed. I have argued for many years that the borough should manage its properties with respect to revenue from and cost to the borough. Management starts with the accurate list of all properties. For MSF, the first filter on the list should be whether the property is habitable or not. Code enforcement now requires occupancy permits for all occupied properties, so upon completion of the initiative to issue a permit for every unit that is required by ordinance to have a permit, it should be a short step to billing MSF only to habitable (that, is with occupancy permit) residential units. This should bring the revenue received much closer to the total amount billed– which would be an improvement for planning the borough budget.
Council also voted last night to enter into a follow-on five-year contract for refuse collection with City of Pittsburgh. The current five-year contract is expiring. WilkinsburgUpdate will post the new contract soon. I expect the cost of the contract is actually based not on the count of residential units in the borough but on the volume of trash/garbage expected to be collected, as City of Pittsburgh now has years of experience in Wilkinsburg. But I am concerned that overstating the number of residential units by including uninhabitable former units is an invitation to City of Pittsburgh to charge the borough more for its service.
Before voting to raise the fee, some council members began a survey of the cost of refuse collection to residents in municipalities that border Wilkinsburg. The Edgewood fee is $48 per quarter, a total of $192 per year. Swissvale’s fee is $150 per year.