Last week I received a detailed list about trash bins from the El Paso Environmental Services Department as a press release to post on my blog. As I read the list, I couldn’t help but laugh at how different El Paso is from Orlando. When speaking to my friends in El Paso I am invariable asked about the cost of living in Orlando. My experience has been that it is actually less expensive for me to live in Orlando than in El Paso. More importantly is that there is distinct difference between how the city treats its taxpayers. In Orlando, it is clear that service to the taxpayer means providing services rather than looking for more revenue streams. An Orlando police officer is more likely to give you a warning than ticket you because their focus is on security and safety as opposed to El Paso police officers who have to meet ticket quotas in order to help prop up revenue streams for the city. Of course, some would argue that there are many factors involved in that and therefore it is not a fair comparison.
Rather than get into a debate about differences in approach and geographical necessities I am going to share with you a real-life comparison from my personal experiences. I call this “trash bin economics” because of how poignant it is for me every time I take the trash out.
Up until recently, I owned a house in El Paso and now live in one in Orlando. My house in El Paso was about 1,800 square feet. The house in Orlando is about 2,106 square feet. Unlike the house in El Paso, the house in Orlando has a swimming pool.
The 2013 Property Tax Assessed Value for the house in El Paso is $164,052. The property taxes for the El Paso property, including school and county, is $4,553.08.
The Orlando house, on the other hand, has a 2013 Property Tax Assessed Value of $202,100. The Orlando property taxes, including school and county, is $3,015.29, a difference of $1,538. Keep in mind that the house in Florida has a swimming pool and actually pays less in property taxes than the El Paso one.
Now get this, the garbage collection fee for the house in Orlando is included in the property taxes. It is $235.00 for the year. In El Paso the garbage fee is include in the water bill.
In El Paso, during the months that my house was vacant while it was on the market, my water bill was no less than about $40 a month. My water bill, with three people living in it and a swimming pool averages from a low of $13 a month to high of $110, the majority of it less than $30 a month. Just like El Paso, Orlando has water conservation measures in place that allow us only two days a week to water our lawns in the summer.
Now let’s compare the trash service I get in Orlando for the $235 a year.
I get three trash pickups a week. Two pickups are for normal household waste and one is for garden/yard waste. It gets better though.
None of the trash pickups requires me to use special bins or put the trash bins in a specific location. You see, I get curbside pickup. As long as I put my trash out, in bags, trashcans or in boxes at the curbside the trash men will get off their trucks and pick it up for me. It even gets better than that. If I have an old couch or furniture, I want to dispose of, I put it on the curb and it is picked up along with the trash.
Now compare that to El Paso trash pickup.
According to the press release from the environmental services in El Paso, homeowners are required to put their trash bins “at least three feet apart” and at least “five feet” from vehicles. The press release states that the lids on the bins must be closed and not overflowing.
If you are wondering why, it is because the City of El Paso charges you a fee per bin you have to get from them. The fees are $16, plus sales tax for trash pickup. Each additional trash bin is $16 a month, plus taxes. If the driver has “to make one extra lift to collect garbage that did not fit in the bin with the lid completely closed” you are charged a $4 fee. The fees are paid through your water bill.
The press release goes on to state that the trash bins must face the street, if not the automated trucks won’t be able to pick it up. As you all know much of El Paso sometimes gets strong windstorms that tip over trashcans in the middle of night, especially on the mountain.
What happens if the wind tips over your trashcan at night? Your trash won’t be picked up for that week. Hopefully your two weeks of trash that is now accumulating won’t overflow or else it won’t be picked up because the lids don’t close properly. If they do, they’ll charge you a $4 fee.
I expect the argument by some of you will be that it is an unfair comparison because my comparison is not an “apple to apples” comparison between El Paso and Orlando.
Let’s examine this further. I’ve already explained my costs in property taxes. It is less expensive in Orlando. Florida, like Texas, does not have an income tax.
Those that know me know that I am a very detailed person who keeps a log each time I fill up the gas tank in my car. Therefore, when I write that my cost to eat lunch at a sit down restaurant in Orlando is the same I used to spend in El Paso you can believe it is accurate. I have a budget of $10 for lunch each day, including tips. It is the same budget I had in El Paso. Like El Paso, I rarely eat at fast food places, rather I like sit down places where I can keep up with the news on my tablet as I enjoy lunch. For the $10, I normally eat at a Japanese restaurant, a Greek restaurant, a pizza parlor, a restaurant purporting to be Mexican (Mexican food in Orlando sucks) and an American style restaurant. In other words, my choices are varied for $10.
According to the website GasPriceWatch accessed on July 21, 2014, the average gasoline price for regular in Orlando is $3.42. The same website lists the average price for El Paso as $3.50.
The only major difference in costs for me is the East-West toll road I use. I traverse Orlando from West to East each day, and then back. My tolls add up to about $75 a month on average. I choose to pay the tolls in order to avoid the heavy traffic that accumulates in the tourist districts but if I wanted to avoid the tolls, I could do so.
It is difficult for me to give you a fair comparison for quality of life expenses because in El Paso I did not have a family whereas in Orlando I do. Suffice it to write that I can be at a public beach in Florida for the cost of about four gallons of gasoline and a $5.00 parking fee. Obviously, there are many entertainment options in Orlando.
By the way, Sales Tax in Orlando is 6.25%, as opposed to El Paso’s rate of 8.25%.
My automobile insurance is less in Orlando than it was in El Paso. My vehicle registration in Orlando is about $46 annually. There is no inspection or smog fees. As an aside, license plates in Florida are assigned to the driver. Thus, when I sell my vehicle I keep my license plate and I can use it on my new vehicle. In El Paso, the annual license plate fee is $50.75 plus a $20 local fee for El Paso County for a total of $70.75 annually, plus the annual TSI fee of $26.75. That’s about $100 to keep my car in Texas properly registered.
As you can see, my living expenses in Orlando are significantly less than what they were in El Paso.
As I take out the trash I can’t help but wonder why the difference. Of course, there are the issues of geography and state politics but I believe that in the end it comes down to corruption. I know there is corruption in Orlando politics however by looking at my personal living costs, my quality of life and what I know about El Paso politics the disparity between El Paso and Orlando is overwhelming. In my opinion, corruption is the main reason for it.