ABC is a medium-sized Australian city. The relevant local government is the ABC City Council, which collects rates and provides the usual range of services provided by Australian local governments. In recent years, the ABC City Council has been criticised by ratepayers for the annual rubbish collection and disposal fee that it charges residential property owners. Each residential property is charged $500 to cover the cost of weekly rubbish collection and disposal. At a meeting of the Council, one rate payer stated:
Why do we have to pay $500 per year just to have our rubbish collected and disposed of? All someone does is drive around in a truck that picks up the bin and empties it into the truck! How can that cost $500 per house per year? We are all being ripped off! It is obvious that the rubbish collection fee is being used to pay for other things – like the Council’s Arts Festival!
One of the Councillors was sympathetic with this view and made the following comment:
I agree that we should not be using the rubbish collection fee as a general revenue raising measure. What we should do is find out the exact cost of collecting and disposing of rubbish from a residential address, and then set that as the annual fee. We will then be able to tell ratepayers that they are being charged the exact cost of having their rubbish collected and disposed of, and that ABC City Council makes no profit from providing this service. As a first step, I would like the Management Accountant of ABC City Council to calculate the exact cost of collecting and disposing of rubbish from a residential address for this year. We can then set that as the rubbish collection and disposal fee, and if we receive any criticism from ratepayers we will be able to show them the calculation and prove that we make no profit from providing this service.
Assume that you are the Management Accountant of ABC City Council and answer the following questions:
1. How would you go about calculating the “exact cost of collecting and disposing of rubbish from a residential address” for one year? In answering this question, you should ensure that you consider what costs would be included in (and what costs excluded from) your calculation.
2. What difficulties would expect to encounter in making your calculations? In answering this question you should ensure that you identify any subjective aspects of your calculations, and also consider whether the Councillor’s request to find the “exact” cost is realistic.
3. If you paid rates to ABC City Council, would you support the proposal to have the annual rubbish and collection fee based on the cost of providing this service?
Topic 2: Essay
Management accountants have a responsibility to numerous groups, including their employer, their profession, and the people who use and are affected by their work. Balancing these responsibilities is not always easy and may lead to ethical conflicts. Discuss, using examples to illustrate your discussion.