Higher SPSA fees may mean higher taxes

Published 7:25 am Saturday, January 17, 2009

For the next five months, area residents will be paying more than double for municipal solid waste collection if the Southeastern Public Service Authority goes ahead with a preliminary proposal to raise tipping fees from $104 to $245 a ton.

How that service is billed depends on where you live.

Residents in the city of Franklin are billed directly for garbage pickup. Barry Cheatham, a city councilman and a member of SPSA’s board, said residents should expect to see their monthly bills increase anywhere from $20 to $23.

“The $245 tipping fee is absolutely ridiculous,” Cheatham said during a recent council meeting. “But I voted for it and here’s why: I’m concerned about what the damage of not paying it would do to affect our credit and bond ratings.”

Cheatham added that the city was “looking for ways not to pass along the entire $23 cost to residents.”

The city council voted to call another public hearing — scheduling it for 7 p.m. on Wednesday — to discuss the matter further and answer citizen questions. The council had received several complaints that the last meeting, which was Dec. 29, was poorly advertised.

Southampton and Isle of Wight counties do not assess residences for the purposes of garbage collection. Rather, money in the general fund for both municipalities is used to fund SPSA’s tipping fees.

Michael Johnson, the administrator for Southampton, said that if SPSA decided to maintain the new tipping fee at or near the new $245 level into the authority’s 2009-10 fiscal year, the county would need to either have a tax increase or take a look at expenditures and try to make a cut somewhere else.

In Isle of Wight, County Administrator Douglas Caskey said “as we go through the budgetary process, we’ll have to find that money by some form or fashion.”

The Board of Supervisors, Caskey said, has ordered that taxes — currently 52 cents per $100 of assessed value — be kept flat. He said that if the county needed additional revenue to fund SPSA’s tipping fees for the next fiscal year, the county would either re-allocate resources, find new sources of revenue, or reduce spending.

According to data from SPSA, Southampton on average sends the authority 792 tons of municipal solid waste per month. Isle of Wight sends 1,667 tons. Assuming that the new tipping fee of $245 per ton is adopted by SPSA at its Jan. 28 meeting, and that both localities will send near average tonnages, Southampton will need to come up with an additional $558,360 to dispose of its solid waste for the next five months. Isle of Wight will need an additional $1,175,235.