Town mulls change in landfill billing Equity, recycling are main issues NORTH --Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

March 31, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Today, as they do every Wednesday, garbage trucks will wind their way through Manchester's streets, collecting trash to haul to the Northern Landfill near Westminster.

And this spring, like every spring, Manchester residents will pay for that service when they pay their local property tax bills.

But that might change.

The Manchester Town Council is considering putting landfill charges on residents' quarterly utility bills.

If that happens, residents would pay about $15 every three months for landfill costs. The actual amount would depend on what the county charges as "tipping fees" -- the cost of dumping refuse in the landfill -- in the coming year.

The amount charged to residents would also vary with town recycling rates. The more the town recycles, the less it will need to send to the dump, and the lower the quarterly charge.

At the March 24 Town Council budget work session, Town Manager Terry Short said the town can cut its landfill costs in half by recycling more.

"That is an item that is completely within the control of the residents of the community," he said. "I recycle over 50 percent. It can be done."

But the town does not have any control over the rates the county charges for dumping solid waste at the landfill.

The county tipping charges have risen from $7.50 a ton in fiscal 1990, to $15 a ton in fiscal 1991 and 1992, to $40 a ton this year, according to Mike Ensor, acting supervisor of the county's solid-waste enterprise fund.

He said the county commissioners have not yet set a rate for fiscal 1994, but that they will discuss the matter this week.

Mr. Short said the county could decide to charge $55 to $61 a ton, or more, for the coming year.

The town administration's draft budget used a high-end estimate of $61.22 a ton to arrive at its projection that the town will spend $82,000 in tipping charges in the coming year.

One reason the Manchester administration is suggesting that residents pay the charge directly is that 33 homes and 67 multifamily housing units in the town pay less in real-estate taxes than the town spends to collect and dispose of their waste.

Last year, the town spent about $92 for solid-waste collection and disposal for each household. That included $44 per household to collect trash and recyclables, and $48 in landfill charges.

The town sent about 1,350 tons of waste to the landfill last year.

Another problem with the current system, said Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr., is that it is unfair to local businesses. Manchester does not provide trash-collection service to businesses, even though they pay real-estate taxes.

"If we took it out of the tax base, it's a little more fair to them," he said.

Some council members have said they may go along with adding the tipping fee to the quarterly utility bill -- if the town's tax rate is lowered to reflect the fact that the town would no longer have to pay for the service out of its general fund.

Councilman Gerald H. Bollinger said Thursday that he isn't opposed to the idea of billing residents for the tipping fee. However, he said at Wednesday's meeting, "We can't just go ahead and spend that $82,000 somewhere else."

Councilman John A. Riley said Thursday he doesn't mind if the fee is moved to the utility bill. "There's some inequities" in the present system, he said. "I won't argue the point."

Mr. Riley, who is also town manager of Hampstead, said he once tried, unsuccessfully, to move Hampstead's tipping charges onto the residents' utility bills.

But Mr. Riley said a charge of up to $15 a quarter is "a substantial amount" to add to residents' utility bills if the town doesn't reduce the real estate tax rate to make up for it.

The proposed town budget increases the real estate tax rate from 39 cents to 45 cents per $100 assessed value, in addition to adding the tipping fee to residents' utility bills.

Last year, the town spent about $54,000 on tipping fees, Mr. Short said. This year, the administration anticipates spending an additional $28,000 on tipping fees. That is a difference roughly equal to about 7 cents on the real estate tax rate.

The tipping-fee question is likely to come up at the next council work session on the budget.

Mr. Short said yesterday that the session, scheduled for tonight at 7 in the town hall, may be postponed until next week because Mr. Warehime will be out of town on business.

Mr. Warehime said Thursday it looks as though the Town Council eventually may decide to put the tipping fee on the utility bill, and reduce the proposed real-estate tax rate by an amount as yet undetermined.

The Manchester Town Council will not take final action on the budget until April 28. A public hearing on the budget and on local tax rates is scheduled for that night.

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