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Should trash disposal be a separate fee?

(2/7) About 40 percent of Thurmont residents’ property taxes go to pay for trash disposal.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars on the municipal property tax pay for solid waste disposal and it’s not fair that someone who owns a $500,000 house will pay more for solid waste disposal than someone in a $50,000 even if they generate the same amount of trash,” said Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns.

In 2006, disposing of trash in Thurmont cost residents $371,700 or 9 cents of their 27-cent municipal tax rate.

Burns wants to take the trash costs out of the tax rate and create an enterprise fund for solid waste disposal like the sewer, water and electricity funds. Waste disposal costs have risen over the years, putting more pressure on the town council to raise the tax rate. However, they then get blamed for the increase to a cost over which they have little control.

“Everyone wants transparency in government,” Burns said. “This will do it.”

The town did try to exert some control over the costs by instituting mandatory recycling. By reducing the tonnage that went to the landfill, the town saved on tipping fees. While recycling has had some effect, the overall cost of waste disposal is still climbing.

Though the enterprise fund would do nothing to reduce the overall cost, it would more fairly balance the costs and also show residents why that portion of their taxes goes up.

The fund would charge residents separately for their waste disposal while reducing their municipal tax rate by the appropriate amount.

“The only thing that will probably remain in the tax rate is the tipping fees, but realistically, the fund would be a revenue neutral move,” Burns said.

He said the enterprise fund wouldn’t be established to make money but to show residents the true cost of solid waste disposal.

The commissioners will talk more about the idea as they begin to discuss the fiscal year 2009 town budget.

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