If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Published 9:05 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

To the Editor:

The mandatory door to door garbage pick-up proposal in Bertie County attempts to fix a problem that does not exist.  It would be an unfair tax on our citizens.

It cannot be classified as a user fee since user fees are voluntary. You pay a user fee when you choose to use a service, and if you don’t use the service you don’t pay the fee. When you force a fee for a service on residents whether they want it or not, whether they use it or not, whether they need it or not, it is a tax, clear and simple.  It is not voluntary.

Bertie County government currently collects around $2 million a year from landfill fees and spends around $500,000 on the five convenience sites. Using those landfill fees, we can add additional convenience sites rather than forcing mandatory door to door pick up on all of the people.  If individual citizens want to contract with private haulers to provide door to door garbage pick-up, they can do it voluntarily.

If the majority of the Board insists on forcing door to door pick-up on our citizens, we should pay for it using the $2 million in landfill fees from other counties for being their garbage dump. We can do it and have money left over.

When the Commissioners agreed 20 years ago to allow garbage to be trucked into our county from other counties, we were told the citizens of Bertie would not have to pay landfill garbage fees.  The other counties do not have the benefit of collecting landfill fees. In fact they are forced to pay millions to dispose of their garbage, a cost we are not forced to pay.

The cost of the convenience centers is less than the landfill fees we collect from the other counties. We have used the excess fees to pay for many other government programs. If this Board wants to ignore the wishes of the overwhelming majority of our citizens and impose unwanted door to door garbage pick-up on the residents, then the unnecessary program should be paid for with the landfill fees.

If county residents pay this involuntary user tax/fee ($125 garbage tax), the cost to property owners varies to as high as a 59.52% increase in that taxpayer’s overall county tax burden (depending on the value of the home).

This involuntary tax/fee is unfair to all our citizens, but it is particularly unfair to our elderly, our poor, and our citizens struggling to get by on fixed incomes.

Would any of us be willing to raise county property taxes on a homeowner who has a house and lot valued at $50,000 next year by a whopping 25 cents, or 30% tax increase?  Or even worse, would any of us be willing to raise county property taxes on a homeowner who has a small, old or single-wide mobile home valued at $25,000 next year by an unconscionable 50 cents, or 60% tax increase?  I don’t believe any of us would do that to our taxpayers, but if you vote for this proposal, you will be doing just that.

The proponents of this proposal want you to think they are doing something for you, but if this proposal passes, it is not the county or any commissioner doing anything for you, they will only be forcing you to pay more money to fund another unnecessary government service.  The county will be putting no money in the program, but they will continue to collect the landfill money and continue to spend it for other government programs.

We should not be searching for solutions to problems that do not exist, especially when it means taking taxpayer money and giving it to another unnecessary government program.  The current system is not broken, so no regressive fix is necessary. Let our taxpayers decide what is best for them, not government.

Charles L. Smith

Bertie Commissioner