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May 21, 2010

Posted by allthingshavelock in Havelock News.
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Board to hear from residents on budget

Proposal includes higher trash fee

May 18, 2010 4:13 PM
By Drew C. Wilson
Havelock News

The Havelock Board of Commissioners will hear comments from residents on the proposed 2010-11 budget during its meeting on Monday night.

The proposed $15.4 million budget includes what amounts to a property tax increase as well as proposed water and sewer rate increases, and an increase for trash collection.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Havelock City Hall.

During a budget work session this week, commissioners discussed a $2.25 increase for trash collection that would bring the total cost to $13.25 per residence. The program began in 2008 with an $11 monthly fee.

Dan Harbaugh, public services director, told the board during a budget workshop that the city’s customers are getting a real high level of service for that fee, but that there may have to be adjustments to collection of yard waste and bulk goods.

Of the current $11 fee, $8.43 per customer was initially paid to Waste Industries to make weekly pickups of trash. The remaining $2.57 was intended to pay for costs associated with the city’s collection of yard waste and bulk goods, such as old refrigerators.

However, an increase in landfill fees last year prompted city payments to Waste Industries to increase to $8.60 per customer and whittled away at that $2.57.

The city did not increase trash fees, but more landfill increases has caused another 17-cent increase per customer this year.

“As the landfill goes up we pay more. That’s the bottom line,” said Dave Harvell, assistant city manager.

To make matters worse, the Consumer Price Index went up 2.6 percent, which will increase the fee another 13 cents as of July.

In July, the city will be paying $8.90 per customer to Waste Industries.

Havelock has had to take money out of its reserve fund every year to finance the operation of the trash program, but city officials would like to ultimately charge customers enough money to make it self-sustaining.

“We’re not putting aside enough money for the enterprise fund in order to make it self-supporting,” Harbaugh said. “We have to address it.”

Commissioner Danny Walsh said he would rather increase trash fees than taxes.

“If I have a choice between raising trash or raising taxes, I’d prefer to raise trash,” he said.

The proposed budget includes a tax rate of 47.5 cents per $100 in property value. That is below the current rate of 53 cents. However, with county property revaluations this year, the tax rate would amount to a 3.5-cent property tax increase over the revenue neutral amount of 44 cents.

Also at issue in the budget is decreased revenue in Powell Bill funding generated from state gasoline taxes. The money is used for street, sidewalk and drainage projects in the city.

The city has been spending more on such projects than the amount of Powell Bill money that has been received.

“A goal of this board is to stop spending in excess of the Powell Bill funds,” Mayor Jimmy Sanders said. “The bleeding needs to stop.”

Harbaugh said four city workers that collect yard and bulk waste are being taken away from work they could be doing on Powell Bill projects.

“I’ve got a real management nightmare,” Harbaugh said.

Commissioners discussed the possibility of reducing the frequency of yard debris and bulk waste pickup as a solution.

One of the main goals of the new trash program was to “clean up” the city of debris that was not being collected on a regular basis.

“The town’s cleaner,” Commissioner Jim Stuart said. “I’m tickled to death with it, but we’re now finding out what the cost is.”

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