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Solid waste rates may go up again

Supervisors earlier this year had to hike solid waste fees in an attempt to keep up with rising costs. CPA Charlie Prince, who has acted as a financial advisor to the board for several years, told the board he believes they can finish out the 2020-2021 budget year without having another increase in rates; however, when supervisors start working on the 2021-2022 budget which goes into effect in October 2021, it will likely contain an increase in solid waste collection rates.
Prince estimates the income for the county’s solid waste collection system based on 5000 customers billed each month.
The board went with the no-raise-for-this (budget) year plan and will begin looking at options when it takes up work on the budtet for the next fiscal year, probably in the summer, in order to have a new budget ready for passage by Oct. 1, 2021.
“If you raise rates $1 per month that’s about $60,000. In other words, if you’re $50,000 short it’ll take a $1 per month to break even,” he said.
Other variables exist, too, that drive rates, including customers that don’t pay and equipment costs.
“If you don’t keep good equipment, repairs will kill you,” he said. “You can leave fees as they are, for now, or you have an option to raise rates now and get a head start.”
Earlier the board took a loan from the general fund of $150,000 to make up the garbage deficit. It’s to be repaid over two budget years, $110,000 this year with the remainder next year.
Solid waste is an enterprise fund, and the state requires that its costs are covered, either through fees, or as a levy, or a combination of the two.
The county can keep the service user based, paid with user fees. But, if it goes to millage, a levy, property would be helping pay the fees, rather than just the user fee.
Julie Ginn suggested resorting to a collection agency before raising rates again. She said Pike County uses a collection agency, “otherwise they told me they’d never collect.”
Supervisors say they are hindered in collection efforts in some ways. Because supervisors are in charge of the health and welfare of the county, they cannot legally not pick up solid waste, even if a customer refuses to pay.
“You’ve got to pick it up,” board attorney Conrad Mord said.
Prince suggested that with tying solid waste bills into tag purchases and land taxes “You have a collection mechanism in place.”
Ginn says that’s not the case as people work around the system, buying new cars, titling it in someone else’s name or using other methods to avoid paying solid waste bills.

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