Adopt SWAC’s solid waste funding plan | Editorial
By COLLEEN ARMSTRONG
Islands Sounder Publisher, Editor
November 4, 2010 · Updated 10:00 AM
Prosecuting Attorney Randall K. Gaylord ruled earlier this year that a parcel fee to support solid waste services, as recommended by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, would be legally indefensible, because it is not directly tied to solid waste transfer station use.
Now he’s changed his mind. And we urge the County Council to adopt the fee to provide a reliable revenue stream for capital improvements and other system investments. In fact, the council should adopt the Solid Waste Advisory Committee’s plan adopted in August 2009.
A parcel fee would actually result in a drop in tipping fees, the amount you pay to take your trash to the transfer station. Here’s why.
Currently, the transfer stations are funded by tipping fees, which provide revenue that fluctuates based on use. Trying to balance the expenses of the solid waste utility on tipping fees alone has long been a problem. When trash volumes decrease, revenues decrease and the utility can’t meet its expenses. The only solution is to raise tipping fees even more.
A parcel fee is fair. Good solid waste management services are essential to the general public health and to a clean environment. That’s something that all islanders share in, whether we rent or own, whether we own property that is developed or undeveloped.
The solid waste transfer stations on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez generate a total of 66,000 visits per year. Providing those solid waste services has a cost. So does ensuring a safe working environment and adapting to changes in environmental standards.
That’s why we endorse the plan recommended by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee in August 2009.
The plan would:
• Establish an annual parcel fee of $50 per developed lot and $25 per undeveloped lot.
• Establish a $5 fee each time islanders take garbage to the transfer station. (The council instead adopted a $5 recycling fee, which doesn’t apply if people take their recycling to the transfer station when they take their garbage).
• Self-haul tipping fees — what individual islanders pay to dump their garbage at the transfer station — would drop from $294 per ton, or 14.7 cents a pound, to $195.98 a ton, or 9.8 cents.
• Revenue from the parcel fees and per-visit fees would go into a capital fund.
• Tipping fees would be used to fund operations; 10 percent of that $195.98 per ton would be used for reduce/reuse/recycle programs.
Under this plan, Solid Waste Manager Ed Hale projects a solid waste utility fund reserve of $700,000 over the next seven years.
Note that under the advisory committee’s plan, tipping fees decline. The idea behind reducing tipping fees in place of an established fee is to shift revenue for capital costs from tipping fees — which fluctuate and are unpredictable — to a steady source.
Committee member Calvin Den Hartog of San Juan Sanitation said the solid waste utility should be treated like other utilities; electrical, phone and water utilities charge a base rate and a rate based on use. The base rate pays the costs of making the service available; the use rate pays the cost of the customer’s actual use.
The county council should trust SWAC’s work. Adopt their plan.Contact Islands Sounder Publisher, Editor Colleen Armstrong at email@example.com or 1-360-376-4500.