County Connection

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County Connection for Week of 04/04/2018
By David Smitherman
Pittsylvania County Administrator

The average Pittsylvania County citizen, just like the average American, generates 4.4 pounds of trash daily; that’s approaching a ton per year per person! Where does the trash go? The majority of us stop thinking about trash disposal once we’ve dropped it off at a compactor site or a green box.

Collection and disposal of solid waste is a big business for Pittsylvania County – about $3.5M is budgeted for solid waste related expenses in FY2019. 100% of the revenue to cover these costs comes from property taxes, the equivalent of $0.075 of the real estate tax rate. Until a few years ago, the County levied a $60/year solid waste fee on all occupied homes, which generated about $1.6 Million toward these costs.

Staff proposes that the Board of Supervisors work toward making landfill operations self-sufficient and not reliant on the General Fund taxpayer. We presented this concept at each of our eight community meetings in March. The overwhelming response was that citizens would rather pay a trash fee than have real estate taxed to perform this necessary service. Our hope is that we can implement the trash fee and accept out-of-county (paid) trash to make this a self-funding enterprise.

No, we don’t want to bring trash from New York or Nevada – we don’t even want to bring it from Portsmouth. Instead, we would like to make our landfill available to neighboring localities. Our research shows that we can double the flow of trash into the landfill and realize a $500,000 annual profit, after paying for accelerated depreciation.

American local government were struggling to deal with household garbage throughout the 1980s and 90s – federal action outlawed traditional landfills and required construction of “lined” landfills. Assembling land and paying for the newly regulated environment forced many local governments out of the business and opened opportunity for the private sector. Today, there is a glut of landfill space throughout the country and everyone is working on the next great way to dispose of trash.

Solid waste collection and disposal is one of the important behind the-scenes government activities that provide tremendous benefit, yet costs a lot of money. Previous County leaders had the foresight to invest in our landfill asset, and we are grateful. We would like to use this asset to the betterment of our community; one way is to provide property tax relief by implementing the solid waste fee and “opening the gate” for cash-paying customers.