Solid Waste Fund reserves being spent

Friday, August 19, 2011

As Marshall County commissioners are considering adoption of their next spending plan -- lasting through June 2012 --one of their special funds is being depleted, although a two-year-old recycling program may be supporting the Solid Waste Department.

That's in dramatic contrast with comparatively large revenue flowing from host fees paid by Cedar Ridge Landfill based on every ton of garbage buried at the facility west of Lewisburg. Depending on deliveries, the county has received $250,000 to $300,000 annually.

Now, the Solid Waste Department budget, as proposed, "has a $10,000 to $12,000 fund balance at the end of the year," Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas said Wednesday about his budget in the county's next spending plan to be approved next month.

Solid Waste Fund reserves have previously far exceeded $12,000.

That "fund balance dropped quite a bit," County Commission Chairman Tom Sumners said Wednesday morning.

Thomas was at a recycling conference in Indiana when he spoke on the phone Wednesday. He was there as a volunteer with the Recycling Coalition as that citizens group decides how the national recycling organizations are going to work together and with state programs.

He was asked how close his spending plan was to needing other revenue. County commissioners have a resolution prepared to impose a $200 per year solid waste fee that would be imposed on each household without trash service contracted by a municipality.

"There were a few things we could have gone without to make sure we could go one more year," Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Waste Management continues to operate county convenience centers for rural residents to drop off their household trash. That service would stop if the company must close Cedar Ridge Landfill.

"For the most part," Thomas said, "we have replaced our tipping fee income with recycling income but we have had to cut back" on some spending.

However, some spending has been increased.

"We've had to increase our expenditures to increase our revenue from recycling," Thomas said.

"We're still getting more revenue than expenditures, but it's not apples to apples," he said contrasting income from the sale of recyclables and host fees. "The landfill revenue does not require expenditures to have income.

"To sort the recyclables out ... we have to have a paid person to oversee (that sorting done by inmate labor) and we have to pay for inmate lunches," he said. "And we borrowed money a few years ago to buy equipment that we have to pay back."

Thomas also monitors the market for the sale of recyclable plastic, paper and metal. It's not unusual for such operations to stockpile such materials when the price is down.