Landfill budget shortfall pegged at $450,000

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
February 21, 2014 01:00 AM

The Sunshine Coast Regional District is wrestling with a landfill budget deficit for 2013 and projected shortfall this year that will total $450,000.

In a Feb. 13 report to the infrastructure services committee that was updated this week for round two budget discussions, staff said anticipated cost savings from service reductions implemented last September "were not fully realized," though expenditures were still three per cent under budget.

"However, tipping fee revenues were $175,000 (10 per cent) below budgeted levels due to reduced tonnages arriving at the landfill," the staff report said.

The report pegged last year's deficit at $135,000 and the 2014 shortfall at $315,000.

Directors accepted staff's recommendation to look at shifting the cost of the green waste drop-off program -$185,000 last year - from tipping fee revenue to taxation, and reduce closure reserve contributions - budgeted at $150,000 annually for 2013-14 -to offset the combined shortfall.

However, they also directed staff to bring forward details on the SCRD's eco-fee program to round two budget talks, and specified that the taxation option would not be added to the base budget at this time.

With the eco-fee reserve's current unallocated balance sitting at $117,000, committee chair Lee Turnbull said she would prefer using that fund to cover last year's deficit, "rather than moving right to taxation."

But CAO John France said the combined $450,000 shortfall was the issue.

"We have a problem right now that has to be addressed," he said.

Turnbull, who balked at islanders being taxed for a service they would not receive, voted against the amended recommendation.

France, in an interview after the meeting, acknowledged islanders do not use the green waste program, but said the solid waste services they receive still cost more than what they are contributing to the function.

"This is one service where islanders are getting equity," he said.

The committee also directed staff to prepare a long-term financial analysis of the landfill function, with a focus on reducing fixed costs, for consideration this summer.

Apart from decreased tipping revenues, ongoing pressures driving up landfill costs include more stringent regulatory requirements for operational certification, higher costs for handling materials such as asbestos and contaminated wood, and increased closure reserve requirements, the staff report said.

Mobile home rebates

In other business, directors decided that mobile home garbage collection fees would go up five per cent this year after all.

After first recommending a five per cent rate hike for single-family dwellings and mobile homes, directors decided last month to instead keep mobile homes at the existing annual rate of $106.91.

The board, however, revisited that decision last week after waste reduction and recovery manager Jeremy Valeriote reported that the SCRD waived collection fees last year for 71 of its 203 mobile home park customers, or 35 per cent.

Since 2000, rebates have been offered to mobile home customers whose property taxes are less than $945 -the total tax on a property valued at about $200,000 - and who are eligible for the additional homeowner grant, Valeriote reported to the infrastructure services committee.

"The SCRD program allows those who could not claim the full amount of their additional homeowner grant on their property taxes to apply for a rebate of the difference between the grant claimed and the amount eligible to be claimed," the report said.

Some directors said they were unaware the rebate program existed.

"This is completely new information," Turnbull said. "I see it as excellent."

"First I heard of it," said Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis, who still voted against the fee hike. "I'm still opposed to an increase in tipping fees," he said.

Under a fee schedule amendment passed at the Feb. 13 board meeting, mobile home park customers will pay $112.26 this year, while residential customers will pay $133.16. The new fees represent a 30 per cent increase for both user groups since 2010.

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