SWA hikes garbage fee
Two things are sure to catch up with you: death and taxes. Taxes caught up with the Pocahontas County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) board at its regular meeting on August 31.
SWA office manager Mary Clendenin reported that the SWA will no longer enjoy a $3.50 tax deduction for every ton of waste deposited in the county landfill. The SWA has filed its tax return for the last several years according to instructions printed on a state solid waste tax form, allowing the deduction. Solid Waste Management Board officials informed Clendenin in August that the instructions are outdated and should have been changed in 1995. The deduction is no longer allowed.
The SWA enjoyed the benefit of lower taxes for several years, at no fault of its own, and the state is not demanding repayment of back taxes. But the SWA will have to pay the additional tax in the future and the tax will have a big impact on the SWA balance sheet.
According to Clendenin's estimate, the new tax and a recent drop in tipping fees collected will cause a loss of $368,000 over five years. At current profit and loss rates, the SWA will have a $33,430 budget deficit in 2017, she said.
The manager said decreasing expenditures is not a viable option.
"We've cut expenses just about everywhere we can cut," she said. " There's really not anything else that we can try and find better prices on to reduce those costs."
The board considered Clendenin's report on green box and tipping fee increases and the amount of revenue alternative increases would produce. The report stated that green box fees have increased 717 percent ($12 to $98) since 1989, whereas tipping fees have increased only 308 percent ($12 to $49 per ton) during the same period.
The current tipping fee at the Pocahontas County landfill is $57.75 per ton. Clendenin's report showed fees at several nearby landfills: Greenbrier County landfill, $46.75; Tucker County, $47.50; Nicholas County, $69.25 and the Tygart Valley transfer station, $67.
According to the manager's estimate, a $15 increase in the Pocahontas County tipping fee, from $57.25 to $72.75, would balance the SWA budget and provide working capital of $343,145 in 2017. A $15 increase would cost Marlinton an estimated $18,000 per year and Allegheny Disposal an estimated $15,000 per year. The corporations almost certainly would pass the cost on to customers.
Board member Jim Burks suggested a corollary increase in the green box fee.
"The question I have is, if we're going to go that $15, where are we going to go on the green box?" he asked. "The rest of the county has to pick it up, too. I don't think you should penalize a lot of businesses, private haulers and not return the responsibility for increases in return back to the public."
Board chairman Ed Riley recommended increasing in the tipping fee now and increasing the green box fee in the future to cover unforeseen costs.
"We need to get this [tipping fee increase] in order to break even," he said. "We know that there's going to be some increases in here that we haven't projected and the green box fee is to protect that."
The board accepted Riley's recommendation and voted 5-0 to approve a $15 tipping fee increase. The increase is subject to Public Service Commission approval. The board also voted 5-0 to approve a budget revision due to the loss of the state tax deduction.
Clendenin reported that 3,553 tires had been collected during a recent free collection at the landfill. The number of tires surpasses that of more populous counties and the board was very pleased with the results.
Landfill manager Jody Alderman said Mike Park with the Department of Environmental Protection had provided funding for the tire collection. Alderman encouraged anyone who knows of unauthorized dump sites to contact Park at 304-822-3800 or MichaelPark@wv.gov.
The next regular SWA meeting is scheduled for September 28, 8 p.m. at the courthouse.