March 13, 2019 - The decreasing costs of energy, a worldwide glut of recyclables and the need for technology will drive up the solid waste fee next year. How much depends on whether residents are willing to reduce or stop some services.
Residents can give their input online at hampton.gov/survey through noon Tuesday, March 26. City Manager Mary Bunting and Interim Public Works Director held three in-person meetings to explain the solid waste costs and other budget priorities for fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1, 2019. The solid waste fee is a user fee that covers the cost of all trash and recycling collections and disposals; it is not supplemented by tax dollars.
Hampton's weekly cost of $6.10 is below the region's average, Zandy Amor, Public Works performance manager, told City Council last month. And for that, she said, residents get more services than other localities in the region offer. Hampton offers weekly pickup of bulk trash and yard waste, whereas most collect less frequently. Some localities limit tire collection.
Continuing with the current service level would cost residents an extra $1.15 a week, according to projections presented to Council. That totals $4.99 a month or $59.80 a year.
Hampton isn't alone. Although other localities have not announced proposed rates for next year, some are feeling the pinch. Norfolk is currently conducting an online poll asking residents if they would pay more to keep recycling and, if so, how much.
Solid waste fees will be the key topic at this year's "I Value" budget input sessions. Since 2010, City Manager Mary Bunting has sought public input before developing a recommended budget for City Council. The process is called I Value because knowing what the public values and supports is a critical part of creating the new budget.
Amor told Council there are potential service reductions that could bring the projected increase down. One would be reducing the frequency of bulk and yard waste collections. Residents have not supported that in the past, largely because it would require them to keep bulk items like appliances and bags of grass clippings in their back yards for up to two weeks until the evening before collection.
Another option would be to stop recycling. However, she noted, recycling is popular. Even though Hampton burns its household waste and would burn recyclable items, the ash would still go to the landfill and shorten its useful life. The state mandates recycling, and the city isn't sure if burning for steam would meet that mandate.
Also on the environmental front, staff noted that Hampton's stormwater fee is among the region's lowest. Increasing that fee could potentially be a way to raise money for major projects that would meet stormwater needs -- reducing pollution – as well as meet a top resident concern – reducing flooding.
The city has adopted a plan, Resilient Hampton, that would address flooding issues, and is working with contractors and local residents to identifying potential projects. Specific projects have not been selected yet, but Hampton would use the fee increase to take out bonds and generate $12-$13 million that could be used for several projects that would make an impact in the short term. The fee increase would be used to pay off the bonds over time.