Trash Tax

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2008

WINDSOR – What do gasoline, liquor, cable, aircraft, electricity and trash have in common?

They’re all some of the goods or services that are taxed by the state of North Carolina.

Trash is the most recent item added to that list. As of August 2007, the state legislature passed the Solid Waste Management Act of 2007, which, among other things, imposed a $2 per ton tax on all trash disposed of at landfills.

That might not seem like a lot until you consider that even a low-populated area like Bertie County generates an estimated 15,000 tons per year of garbage.

The new &uot;trash tax&uot; was discussed at the last regular meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners on March 20.

County Manager Zee Lamb posed the question to the commissioners as to what to do about the extra cost.

&uot;You need to make a decision on this as to how to handle it. At 15,000 tons per year, that’s an extra $30,000 – do taxpayers or the convenience centers pay up front, or do you get (the landfill operators) to take it out of the county’s proceeds,&uot; he stated.

The Bertie County landfill – the third largest in the area – takes in trash from 18 counties in the northeastern part of the state at an average of nearly 1,600 tons per day.

Therefore, with the new tax in place, landfill operator Republic Services LLC of North Carolina is having to pay up to $3,200 extra per day in operating costs.

Multiply that by the 290-some days the landfill is open each year and you have close to a million-dollar difference.

Fortunately, Bertie County is not responsible for the additional taxes incurred by other counties unloading their trash here.

Those counties must each be responsible for paying their own now-higher tipping fees.

&uot;Those other users are going to have to pay that extra money per ton when they come through the gates,&uot; Lamb later told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

During Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Wallace Perry told of a seemingly related call he’d gotten from a county citizen.

&uot;I got a call from a woman recently whose husband was charged $50 a ton at the landfill to throw away some stuff,&uot; Perry remarked.

Traditionally, Republic Services has waived the tipping fee for Bertie County private residents throwing away small amounts of debris.

However, now it appears they are exercising their right to charge anyone who uses the landfill.

&uot;They have that right under the contract, if it’s termed commercial or demolition (products),&uot; Lamb explained.

He later elaborated, &uot;One reason they’ve probably started charging is that they’re going to have to start paying the tax on it.&uot;

Ironically, as Commissioner Perry pointed out, the county is now in the process of trying to enforce a junkyard and abandoned motor vehicle ordinance in which property owners must keep their land free of junk.

&uot;We’re after the county (citizens) to clean up and they’re being charged to take demolition material to the landfill.

That’s bad.

B-A-D capital bad,&uot; Perry remarked.

The county gets host fees from the landfill, normally about $1.6 to $1.7 million annually.

One possible solution to the problem would just be taking the tax cost off the county’s proceeds.

Another way to handle it could be to charge users as they bring in trash.

&uot;The tax has to be paid, therefore we just have to figure out how to pay it,&uot; Lamb stated.

The new state tax is scheduled to be explained in further detail at the next meeting of the commissioners on April 7.