The Palm Beach County Commission, sitting as the board of the Solid Waste Authority, approved a preliminary budget Wednesday that retains the current single-family assessment at $175 and excluded proposed pay raises for employees.
The commissioners also rejected a proposal to reduce tipping fees to induce haulers not to go out of the county to take advantage of reduced tip fees elsewhere.
The rate structure will be sufficient to pay for the debt service, capital and operating cost for all the facilities, including the new mass burn plant when it is completed, according to SWA Executive Director Mark Hammond, who predicted that the system will not need any major expansion for more than 25 years.
Several commissioners said they would not support the budget recommendation that the commercial tip fee be reduced from $42 to $38 per ton due to recent changes in competing rates as low as $21 per ton in Broward and Martin counties, which would reduce financial incentives to export solid waste.
However, SWA staff noted that revenue leaving the system could ultimately require an increase in commercial assessments.
Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he would not support a reduced tip fee because it would not be a sufficient incentive for commercial haulers to use the SWA facilities.
“If you’re going from $42 to $38, it’s still an incentive for them to take it out,” Aaronson said.
During public comment, resident Patricia Curry said she thought reducing the tip fee was rewarding contractual haulers for cheating. “If you want incentive to see that the trash doesn’t leave the county, fine them, then they won’t take the stuff out of the county,” Curry said.
SWA staff said the reduced tip fee could be an incentive due to the cost of fuel and increased distance and time.
SWA staff also reported that it is creating a new tip fee of $30 a ton for livestock waste and bedding material to provide a reasonable alternative for the equestrian community. It is also creating a new tip fee for dewatered sludge of $100 a ton, which will cover the operating expense of handling the material.
The proposed budget had set aside money for a 5 percent increase for all personnel. “It has been three years since the rank-and-file personnel have received any form of pay increase and four years for the management staff,” Hammond said.
Commissioner Karen Marcus said she could not support the pay raises. “While I appreciate the support you have for the staff, I can’t support the raises that are proposed within the budget,” Marcus said. “All of our employees at the county level are working hard, too, but we are not including raises for them.”
Marcus made a motion to approve the proposed budget without pay raises, which carried unanimously. A motion by Marcus to approve the assessments and tip fee rates also carried unanimously.