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New residential dump fees eyed at regional landfill

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

Stafford County and Fredericksburg residents could soon be reaching deeper into their pockets to help keep the regional landfill financially afloat.

The $1 million in revenue generated from charging residents a $3 or $4 per-trip fee to the landfill would solve the bulk of the budget problem for the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board, which oversees the landfill.

The R–Board must find about $1.4 million to cover a $114,000 fiscal year 2015 budget shortfall, replenish reserve funds and fund the construction of more space to hold trash.

Without that additional space, the landfill risks being shut down by December 2015.

In addition to cutting expenses and changing fees, the R–Board has responded to nearly a decades-worth of net operating losses by drawing from a unrestricted reserve fund, which is now circling the drain after peaking at $7.4 million in 2002.

The R–Board has over $5 million in restricted reserve funds that are fenced off because the state requires those monies to be tied to closing and monitoring landfill cells that are filled to capacity with trash.

Some funds restricted

Staff now expects the fiscal 2014 audit to reflect that those restricted funds have been depleted.

Those funds, which staff has said should not be tapped for operations or capital projects, must be replenished as soon as possible.

The R–Board did decide on Wednesday to increase the fees it charges commercial haulers by 5 percent, which is estimated to bring in $154,500. The board took eliminating Sunday hours off the table, which would have brought in an additional $62,000.

The debate will now revolve around the residential charge and charging the city more to dump trash as R–Board members take the issue to the Fredericksburg City Council and Stafford Board of Supervisors to see which options they support.

Staff has proposed charging the city $34 per ton of waste dumped, which is the discounted rate that most of the commercial haulers that serve Stafford residents pay to dump their larger loads at the landfill.

The city, whose Public Works Department handles residential trash pick up, set aside more landfill money this fiscal year that equates to paying $20 per ton of waste dumped.

Stafford County gives the equivalent of about $41 per ton to the R–Board annually, to dump county-related waste.

Staff also proposed breaking out the increased city charges so that the city pays $34 per ton for regular waste, but $41 per ton for construction and demolition materials.

Those two increased charges could bring in an additional $160,000.

R–Board Chairman and City Councilman Matthew Kelly saw the residential charge as a way to get the landfill out of the red and build up reserves.

“It’s not necessarily good politics, but it’s sound governance,” Kelly said.

R–Board Vice Chairman and Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde was the only vocal opponent of the residential charge, saying that it will be unfair for Stafford residents since a majority of the residents that dump at the landfill are Stafford residents.

Milde has other ideas

Instead, Milde argued, the R–Board should hand the financial responsibility of the Belman collection center back over to the city and the financial responsibility of the litter pickup program that mainly serves Stafford back over to the county. Making those changes plus increasing commercial hauler fees and increasing the city’s fees to dump trash will give the R-Board enough money to fund the debt service for the construction of more landfill space. Milde said that the revenue from the residential charge plus other measures would give the R–Board more money than it would know what to do with.

But other R–Board members from Stafford and Fredericksburg didn’t agree with Milde.

After previously standing against the residential charge, Stafford Supervisor and R–Board Gary Snellings said that he now sees no way around charging residents the user fee.

“I don’t think we can piecemeal this thing. I think we have to bite the bullet and put in a user fee,” Snellings said.

Ending the litter pickup program that mainly serves Stafford was a bargaining chip for the R–Board to try to get Stafford supervisors to give more money to the R–Board.

But with the state budget gap now looming, Stafford supervisors couldn’t even fiscally get on board with giving the R–Board more money even if they did get ideologically on board, Snellings said.

Kelly and William Withers have both said that they don’t see the support for closing the Belman center, and that the R–Board needed the extra money to build back up its reserves.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975

vremmers@freelancestar.com

 

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