CLINTON — It’s been almost seven years since solid waste collection fees were raised, and citizens will wait at least another year before another hike is implemented.

That’s because Clinton City Council members voted to nix the proposed 50-cent per-month increase during Wednesday’s budget hearing. Without the increase, the city will incur an ending balance of $44,399 for the 2009-2010 budget.

If the fees were raised by 50 cents each month, the ending balance would have increased to $102,399. The impact would have escalated collection fees from $7 to $7.50 each month.

City Administrator Gary Boden said the hike would offset operating costs, while Ward 4 councilman Paul Gassman referred to the progression of changing collections as a drawback.

“If this is to get to the end goal of changing the system, then we’ve been talking about that for years,” Gassman said. “If our goal is to just hit people up for 50 cents per year, then I object. We were having this discussion about changing the collections when I was on the council 10 years ago.”

Currently, the city allocates $100,000 per year to help fund a future collection process. The procedure would include an automated system that would use a machine to pick up recycling and waste, much like the current system used in the Quad-Cities.

This would require new trucks, containers and a sorting facility. Boden said the account has approximately $1.1 million in it.

Boden also said when the system starts, it won’t create a cost savings; instead it will slow down future rate increases and be more efficient.

“We need to recognize this as a business,” Boden said. “If we don’t do a rate increase, then we’re dangerously low at the ending balance.

A rate increase will actually double the amount from dangerously low.”

Gassman referenced using the reserve account money to help offset operating costs.

“We’ve collected over $1 million from the people and we could use that to help fund this for an entire year,” Gassman said. “The difference between (the ending balances) is $60,000, and that’s a lot less than the $100,000 we’re stashing away in our slush fund.

“The people are working for that and they’re not getting anything. Who’s here trying to help them?”

Ward 3 councilman Darrell Smith pointed out workman compensation as having a role in changing the system. Boden agreed, saying that topic is a “national issue” among garbage collectors who injure their backs while on the job.

At-large councilman Mark Vulich opted for raising sticker prices currently placed on outgoing trash to help cover operating costs. Boden said the added sticker price would not cover the city’s collection expenses.

“That’s a landfill cost, as opposed to an operating cost,” Boden said. “We don’t create the garbage and if no one is buying stickers, we still have to drive around regardless if there isn’t as much garbage.”

Overall, the ending balance has decreased significantly since the 2006-2007 budget year. During the 2006-2007 year, the balance read $306,383. It decreased to $252,799 in 2007-2008 and fell to $160,799 last year.

If the 2009-2010 budget had recommended a $1 per month increase, the ending balance would have totaled $160,399, $400 less than last year’s final tally. Boden said he would rather see the ending balance hover at last year’s total, rather than the more than $300,000 from three years ago.

The implementation of a new collection process should begin during the 2009-2010 budget season, Boden said.