East Hampton Town residents may have to pay more to dispose of their garbage and recyclables this year. Town Board members are mulling over an increase to recycling center and transfer station permit fees to balance the 2014 budget.
According to Budget Officer Len Bernard, the town is running lower on surplus sanitation fund monies, which usually go toward keeping the facilities open, and seeing an increase in operation costs.
He said at last week’s Town Board work session that increasing permit fees would be a surefire way to balance things out.
This week, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that while the increase would solve the immediate budget issue, the town will start looking into more long-term solutions to increase revenue while also increasing the town’s recycling rate, which trails behind Southampton’s.
In an effort to get the ball rolling, the town is looking into securing a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant that would assist in improving its recycling program, Mr. Cantwell said.
To make do until then, permit fees to dump trash at town facilities are likely to increase. The cost of a “self-hauler” sticker, which is currently $100 for one vehicle, would be raised to $115, generating over $75,000 in additional revenue for 2014, according to Mr. Bernard.
A secondary sticker, for another car belonging to someone who already has a self-hauler sticker, would increase from $15 to $40, generating an increase in revenue of $65,000. Mr. Bernard said employees who work in the booths and offices at the facilities see secondary sticker owners bringing in a disproportionate share of the garbage that comes into the waste centers.
Senior citizens’ stickers would go up $5 to $55, and those who don’t have a sticker would pay $20 per trip, double what the price is now. Mr. Bernard said the per-trip fee hike alone would generate over $100,000 in additional revenue.
Commercial permits may also see a $75 bump for G1 permits issued for large trucks. Mr. Bernard said, however, that commercial carters, who pay $120 per ton, would not see an increase.
“This additional revenue would more than meet what we need to meet our budget goals,” he said about the fee increases. “In 2012 to 2013, we did use the surplus from the sanitation fund to keep the overall tax levy for the town under the 2-percent mark. We planned with the understanding that at a certain level we wouldn’t be able to use the surplus. In 2014, we did not use it to balance the budget.”
With all the talk about raising permit fees for dumping, board members agreed that the town’s recycling rate needs to increase.
According to Mr. Cantwell, it costs more to dispose of solid mixed waste than to recycle. Upping the recycling rate and lowering the amount of garbage that the town sends out to be landfilled would ease the burden on taxpayers and on the environment.
Last year, East Hampton took in 10,000 to 11,000 tons of nonrecyclables by homeowners and around 2,500 tons of nonrecyclables by commercial carters. The town recycles approximately 20 to 30 percent of the waste handled by its facilities, according to Stephen Lynch, the director of sanitation, who could not immediately say how many tons the town recycles.
Southampton Town claims a recycling rate of 48 percent and says that last year it recycled about 4,000 tons of garbage and 8,825 gallons of oil.
According to a Stony Brook University study from 2011, East Hampton’s recycling rate had fallen 47 percent since 1998, while Southampton’s had increased 66 percent.
Mr. Lynch said that the two towns have different systems—Southampton uses a pay-per-bag system for resident self-haulers only. Those who buy green town bags pay for garbage disposal in that price. Recyclable materials are accepted at no cost to residents. In East Hampton, residents pay for a permit whether they recycle or not.
“The bag program in a sense built in some incentive for people to recycle, but the truth is, in many households the actual cost could be more,” Mr. Cantwell said. “To weigh the cost benefit would take some time. Fixing this immediate problem in the current budget can be done fairly quickly. We will take this step and then start the initiative to promote recycling and see if that can’t help reduce the cost.”
The first step started with a statement Mr. Cantwell issued last Wednesday, saying that employees at town offices would begin to recycle paper products to encourage residents to do the same.
“Having just left the discussion about the need to encourage the community to recycle more, walking into the office realizing that Town Hall is not recycling is a striking contrast,” Mr. Cantwell said about the town’s new initiative. “Steve Lynch is working with the finance staff, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc for this grant application to help fund a much broader effort to recycle in Town of East Hampton. This is the beginning of an initiative we want to pursue.”