Residents to county: Trash solid waste tax idea

Mar. 22, 2014 @ 12:55 PM

Orange County residents want to find other ways to encourage recycling than a one-size-fits-all solid waste tax district, based on reaction at a recent hearing.

During the first hearing on the proposed solid waste service tax district most of the residents who spoke were not in favor of the proposal that they say will unfairly tax them for services they won’t use.
“I’m strongly committed to waste reduction,” said Orange County resident and county commissioner candidate Bonnie Hauser. “I can’t find any county that forces residents to pay for curbside recycling and convenience (center) fees.”
County Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson explained that in 2004 the county adopted the Rural 3-R fee of $38 to pay for the rural recycling program.
The fee was eliminated after the 2012 tax billing cycle when questions were raised about whether the county had the authority to levy the fee. County officials said that attempts to ensure the county had appropriate authority died in committee last year.
Last year interim funding from the landfill reserves were used to cover rural recycling costs. Now the county is proposing a solid waste service tax district that would be charged a fee based on property values to fund rural recycling collection.
According to Wilson, if approved, 95-gallon rollout carts will be made available to residents this fall for curbside recycling pickup, with a suggested fee between $90 and $100.
The proposed tax district would only have recycling picked up curbside, not all solid waste and all properties that are taxed would be subject to the solid waste service tax including empty lots. Properties that are tax-exempt like non-profit organizations and churches would not be subjected to the proposed tax.
Many of the residents who spoke against the tax district said that they take their trash and recyclables to the convenience centers throughout the county and would rather see the centers’ hours extended than another tax.
They also said that in addition to not having curbs for the rollout carts, they see this proposed tax district as a redistribution of wealth and nothing like the fire tax it’s being compared to.
“I do recycle. I recycle everything,” said Ken Robinson. “What I hear is we lost our funding source. If we’re going to make recycling better, then let’s make that the focus instead of ‘we need money.’ I would like to see ways to improve recycling not just a way to collect funds.”
Residents suggested a tiered payment system based on use.
“Having the tax based on property value is very unfair,” said Tracy Noonan. “Property value doesn’t affect how much people recycle. I am fine with paying a fee. I am not fine with paying a fee that is two, three, four times higher than I’m paying now for no more services.”
Using a subscription or opt-out service was considered, county officials said, but was abandoned when researched showed that subscription systems perform poorly in comparison to other options and would result in a fluctuating price based on the number of participants.
The commissioners did not respond to any of the residents’ comments but were able to ask questions of the staff. The next public hearing on the solid waste service tax district will be held at 6 p.m. on April 1 at the Orange County Social Services Center at 113 Mayo St. in Hillsborough.