SPSA proposes raises in smaller budget

Published 9:52 am Friday, February 24, 2012

By Tracy Agnew/News Editor

CHESAPEAKE—The region’s garbage authority unveiled a proposed fiscal 2013 budget Wednesday that includes a 3 percent pay raise for employees.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority’s proposed $44.65 million budget, if approved, would be 9 percent less than the current fiscal year’s spending plan. Board members will discuss the budget in March.

The authority handles waste management for Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County and other Hampton Roads localities.

Other increased expenses in the SPSA budget include fuel and a projected $82,500 for tolls expected to begin this summer on the Midtown and Downtown tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth.

The authority plans a $20-per-ton decrease in the tipping fee charged to member localities for garbage disposal. The new fee would be $125 per ton. Suffolk pays no tipping fees because it hosts the regional landfill.

The authority has budgeted for a 3 percent increase in garbage tonnage, which is its major source of income. Tipping fees account for 96 percent of revenue, financial officer Liesl DeVary said at Wednesday’s board meeting. That includes fees for municipal waste, U.S. Navy waste, construction and demolition debris and other materials.

Other income comes from programs for the disposal of household hazardous waste and tires, as well as landfill gas royalties and interest earnings.

DeVary also proposed using a projected $16 million surplus in the current fiscal year to pay off debt and make early contributions to a landfill-closure fund.

DeVary said the surplus resulted from early repayment of other loans, which saved interest dollars. She recommended paying about $9.48 million in debt early and transferring the rest of the surplus — about $6.5 million — to the landfill-closure fund, eliminating the need to fund it in future years.

With the move, the authority would have about $36 million in debt left. That’s a stark contrast to three years ago, when the debt was about $250 million and the authority did not have enough cash to survive for 60 days.

The budget also includes a loss of 4½ full-time jobs, DeVary said. The positions were eliminated throughout the current fiscal year, she said.

The board did not discuss the budget much, deferring its deliberations until next month’s meeting on March 28. A public hearing on the tipping fee change is scheduled for April 25, and that will be the first opportunity the board has to adopt the budget.