Count-down on rural curbside recycling

On Tuesday evening, the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on recycling. There has been a change in the way the law is being interpreted which makes the current fee system questionable. Currently the county is divided into 3 sections. Some of the rural community pays for 2 of the 3R fees (availability and convenience centers) and the portion of the rural community that gets curbside collection on recycling pays for those same 2 + an additional fee of $38 for collections. A new funding source is needed for the curbside collections portion of the fee (a service that effects about 13,000 residents).

The county is considering 3 options to get around this legal issue. 1) go to a solid waste authority (like OWASA) that would be a separate operational and financial unit, 2) create 3 solid waste tax districts, or 3) eliminate curbside collection for neighborhoods outside of a city limit.

The tax district is the most feasible option. To continue offering curbside collection, they would impose a tax of roughly $0.011 (just over 1 penny) per $1,000 of tax valuation of our homes. For homes valued at around $300,000 the tax would roughly equal the current fee. 

I value our county recycling program and hope that others do too. But there are many who don't and they have been relatively vocal. If you want to help save our curbside collections, I hope you will speak out. You can either attend the meeting Tuesday night (7:00 pm at the Southern Human Services Center) or you can send an email to the county commissioners:

If you choose to speak up and you live in the rural curbside collection area, please make sure you say so. We need for the county commissioners to understand that those who receive the service value it. 



Terri -what's your basis for the tax rate?  There's been no agreement about ths scope of service covered by the district tax or who would be taxed.  Btw - unlike a fire tax, there's no limit to the district tax rate.  Since the towns haven't agreed to anything - are you assuming that they are in or out?  The county can't tax town residents without permission from town leaders.  Of course the the urban and multi-family programs are much larger than the rural program. .  Since over half the unicorporated county doesn't use the service, why would residents want to pay a new tax?  For most of us, it's easier to use the convenience centers.  For those of you that use it, why don't you lobby for weekly service and pay a few bucks more?I can see how the Southern Triangle (District 1) would want curbside services.  You're the only unincorporated part of the county that doesn't have a convenience center.   Patterson, areas just west of Carrboro. and possibly the Hillsborough ETJs too.  After that there's not much interest.Of course the easy option is to just let people who don't want the service to opt out. If a lot of people opt out, then there's really no basis to continue the program at all. Since nothing is happening until July 2014, the county has a year to see what the opt out rate is.   Please source your basis for a tax rate - because there's been no information from the county or the towns on the scope of service or the size of the community covered by the tax.   Bonnie Hauser

I live in White Cross and have curbside recycling.  Almost 100% of the people in my general area put their recycling bins out on recycle day.  When I drive along Dodson's Crossroads and Orange Grove Road (north of Dodson's Xroads) on recycle days, there are *many* (more than half of driveways) with recycle bins out.

 Please do not generalize for areas outside the Southern Triangle.  There are plenty of people in the rural areas that utilize curbside recycling.  The convenience centers are not convenient for my area (driving several miles out of my way) not to mention that everyone doesn't want to load their trash/recycling into their cars.

Many people in the rural area I call home contract with Waste Industries to pick up their trash on a weekly basis.  Drive around on trash day and see how many containers you see out.

"Orange County Voice" does not speak for ALL rural residents - you are a special interest group. 

The source on the tax rate came directly from the manager's office and is being used by staff for preliminary planning.More than half of the RURAL population of Orange County does not have curbside collection and doesn't pay the third leg of the 3R fee now and wouldn't be paying for it under the district tax scenario. 13,000 residents of the rural community do have the service and they would be included in the district that would move from a flat fee to one based on property values. I live in that area and because I live in one of the small, older homes in the county, my annual fee would be less than I currently pay. People in larger homes would pay more. There was a letter to the editor last week from one of those individuals who said he supports a progressive tax for a valuable service.

Thanks for the source - nothing has been disclosed publically and the commissioners are still trying to decide who should be taxed and what the tax should include.  Of course, like other taxes, its common to initially set a low  tax - and then increased every year.  Unlike fire taxes which are capped at 15 cents, there's no limit to a solid waste district tax. There are 21000 families in the rural community - and 13,700 pay for curbside recycling. 9000 use it. So 2/3rd's pay for the service, less than half use it.  So the assumption behind your numbers is that the same people who get the service today - including the 4,000 residents who don't use it, would continue to get it.  And that the tax would only cover the curbside recycling fees - not the base 3R ($38)  or SWCC fee ($20 and going up)Thanks for the clarification,  Hopefully tomorrow's discussion will be similarly transparent. Bonnie Hauser

"There are 21000 families in the rural community - and 13,700 pay for curbside recycling. 9000 use it. So 2/3rd's pay for the service, less than half use it. "The residents, like yourself, who do not receive curbside service don't pay for it. You pay for availability (the same fee that everyone in the county pays) and you pay a convenience center fee. Availability covers the cost of recycling at the convenience centers; the convenience center fee covers the cost of MSW service at the conv centers. By your numbers of 13,700 paying for curbside and 9,000 using it that means 65% of the county uses the service--significantly more than half.My assumption is that nothing is set in stone, but that the two portions of the 3R fee that are currently unchallenged (availability & convenience centers) will remain as fees and the collection service will be billed as a tax. But I'm sure that decision will go through multiple iterations between the towns, the commissioners, and the staff. 

Oh- just to clarify -you're also assuming that the portion of the SWCCs ($2 million a year) that are funded from the general fund would not be shifted over to the new district tax.   Bonnie Hauser

FWIW for those itemizing their federal income taxes a special property tax district results in a federal/state tax deduction while the solid waste fee does NOT

Terri there are 21000 (maybe more) households in the unincorporated part of the county.  13,700 pay for curbside recycling -- that's roughly 2/3rd 65% of those who PAY for the service actually use it, that's 9000 (13,700 * .65) 9000 is 43% of 21000 rural households (that's less than half). If you looked at the utilization rates, you'd find that the usage is concentrated in the communities near town - including the southern triangle, the areas between Chapelboro and Hillsborough. West of Carrboro.  There are many options here. Since the county plans to continue the service through 2014 - why don't they just ask and see how many people want to opt out of the fee. Bonnie Hauser

13,000 pay for curbside recycling. Assuming you got the 9,000 number from your survey (which I have issues with), 9,000 is 65% of 13,000. The 21,000 figure has nothing to do with this--they don't pay for curbside recycling so the figure is irrelevant; nothing will change for them unless the county decides to expand the curbside program.The 'southern triangle' is an artifact of your group's efforts to divide the county into rural and urban--and now suburban. I don't think it's healthy for the community. The county staff are working with calculations based on the 3 groups who are charged 3R fees: urban, rural/no curbside, rural/curbside. Those are the only groups that we can discuss which will make the numbers work consistently and be sufficiently accurate to conduct accurate comparisons to any plan going forward.

It's a fallacy to include households who do not have the ability to use a service in that service's untilization rate.  You are being deceitful to say less than half of rural households use the service because 7300 households do not have access to the service (and, presumably, SOME of them would use the service if they had access to it).

The fact is that 65% of households who CAN use the service do in fact use it.  That's a pretty high rate.  You are trying to minimize it by including households that cannot use the service in your argument.

Thank you to everyone who showed up to speak in favor of the rural curbside recycling program last night. The commissioners have now limited their choices for how to proceed to either the district tax or a solid waste authority, and will no longer consider the option of making us all haul our recyclables to a central collection site.Most especially, thank you to the commissioners for listening to the arguments, acknowledging the concerns of those who don't want to pay for recycling, and then making the tough decision to proceed. Now we just need the three towns to sign back on to the county-wide program. 

Thanks, Terri, for helping to educate people about this issue. It paid off last night. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is scheduled to discuss recycling during its regular meeting on June 4.


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