Inyo takes hit on dump fees
Dump fees went up in Inyo County as of July 1 in an attempt to cover the cost of the county’s Integrated Waste Management System, which currently operates the county’s solid waste disposal facilities. In fiscal year 2010-11 the department had a budget of $2.5 million, but due to rising costs in compliance with state and federal regulations, revenues ultimately fell short of expenses by about $600,000. Compare that to Mono County’s $1 million deficit and you have a similar, if slightly lesser, gap in funding that needs to be filled.
Inyo County’s solution is similar to that of Mono County: raise gate fees and fees for commercial haulers, as well as fees for landfill items such as furniture, tires, tree stumps, yard waste, boats, mobile homes and other large items that require special handling. Inyo upped its gate fees from $2 to $5, bringing it in line with Mono, which raised its fees from $1.75 to $5 on May 1. Inyo will also increase the franchise fee for commercial haulers from 5 to 10%, which translates into an additional cost of about $4 dollars per month for consumers with curbside pickup.
A June 1 press statement said the $4 increase “is still about 30 percent less than what residents of Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes pay for the same service.” But that depends on the specific franchise and number of containers picked up. Mono County sets a “floor rate,” or a lowest possible rate that a franchise provider can charge, so one provider can’t drive another out of business.
The new floor rate for this year for a 95-gallon “toter,” which is industry jargon for a large trash container, is currently $32.20 per month, where last year it was $30.10. The increase is only $2.10. The ultimate price of monthly curbside service is determined by the provider, but this number shows that, while Mono County residents will see a raise in prices for curbside pick-up and waste site drop-off, it may not be as much as they expect.
Inyo County will also increase the cost to dispose of construction and demolition waste at landfills from $9 to $14. This is a price bump that Mono County has chosen to avoid. But while Mono County has opted to reduce the days of operation of its transfer stations to two days per week as of July, Inyo said it plans to continue service as usual, with both schedule and staff remaining the unchanged.
In Mono County, the fee increases are paying off. May 2010 tip fee revenue at the Benton Crossing Landfill was $71,890; May 2011 tip fee revenue was $99,955. And, as Solid Waste Superintendent Matt Carter reports, “Once all revenues and expenses are entered for the end of the year it is expected that the Solid Waste Enterprise fund will have begun the new fiscal year with approximately a $900,000 negative cash balance.” That’s down from about $1 million last year. The County’s Board of Supervisors will also contribute $108,746 to the fund, and is looking to cover the remaining deficit with a loan from the General Fund.
In Inyo, the response to the fee increases has been less hostile than one might expect. Residents in attendance at a series of public meetings held by the Integrated Waste Program vouched for their willingness to keep the Solid Waste Program in the black by paying more for local landfills, if it meant keeping staff, services, and operating hours at Inyo’s current facilities. Time will tell whether the increase in fees will be sufficient to close the $600,000 gap, or whether Inyo, like Mono, will have to make changes to its service as well.