Residents at public hearing choose increased taxes over sanitation change
Published 9:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2023
In a packed third public hearing with a standing-room-only crowd, local residents resoundingly voiced that they would prefer an increase to their property taxes over any change to the way the county handles sanitation.
Sanitation costs for the county have exploded since 2017 when the City of LaGrange decided to stop hauling commercial garbage in order to prolong the life of their landfill. At the time, the county’s sanitation budget was $411,737.
County Manager Eric Mosley said they are currently projecting the operations budget for next year to cost upwards of $2.2 million, which doesn’t include much-needed capital expenditures to replace trucks, compactors and site repairs.
“The overall FY24 budget right now is roughly estimated at somewhere between $3.6 and $3.9 million,” Mosley said.
Mosey said because the county’s sanitation millage rate is directly proportional to costs to provide sanitation services, his staff sent out a request for bids for four options to deal with rising sanitation costs.
The first option, or Option A as the county referred to it, is to change nothing. The convenience centers would remain open as they are now. The estimated increase to the sanitation millage rate would initially be 1.5 mills, but that is expected to rise.
The current sanitation millage rate is .637 mills, so the owner of a $175,000 home is currently paying about $44.59 for their sanitation tax. With the 1.5 mill increase, that same home’s sanitation millage would increase to $109.41, or about a $64 increase to their overall tax bill.
A $250,000 house would see sanitation taxes increase from $63.70 to $156.29. A $350,000 house would go from $89.18 to $218.81 and a $400,000 home would increase from $114.66 to $281.33.
Option B would have the county completely drop sanitation services. All convenience centers would be closed and residents can contract with their own provider of curbside services. Bulky items would need to be taken to the landfill.
Under this option, all the sanitation taxes would be eliminated.
Option C, which Mosley recommended to the board, would have the county select a sanitation company to franchise and run both curbside pickup and up to four convenience centers.
Residents could choose to pay for curbside pickup, which would cost $25 to $35.50 per month for standard pickup. The curbside service would include the option to drop off their trash at a convenience center at no extra cost.
Those who would prefer to not contract for curbside service could utilize the convenience centers at a pay-as-you-throw rate.
The final option would reduce the number of convenience centers and switch to a pay-as-you-throw system. The sanitation millage rate could potentially be lowered but not likely eliminated.
Three bids were received from sanitation service providers for Option C.
Mosley recommended that the county goes with Martin Environmental Services, from Dothan, Alabama, who submitted a bid, which includes a $31.50 monthly curbside pickup charge, $20 for an extra can and a $10 backdoor pickup fee.
Older and disabled residents would be able to receive backdoor pickup at no extra charge with a note from a physician.
The pay-as-you-throw charges would be $10 per 95-gallon cart or $9 per cubic yard for bulky items.
Several residents noted that even if they own a $400,000 home, the cost of curbside pickup would still exceed the potential increase to the sanitation tax. Under the bid recommended by Mosley, a resident would need to pay $378 per year for curbside pickup compared to a potential $166.67 increase in taxes.
“Even if you have a $400,000 house, you’re paying $378 at the $31.50 a month [rate] and you would only be at $278 with taxes. That’s still cheaper,” said resident Chris Kirby.
County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews noted that residents in all three cities are already required to pay for curbside pickup and are effectively being charged twice for sanitation.
“That tax is borne by all of the property owners in Troup County — city and county. That’s the way it’s assessed. So in a way, people that live in the city are helping to fund sanitation in the county,” Crews said, noting their taxes would be going up too.
Crew’s comments on city residents having to pay for sanitation services they do not use fell on deaf ears as multiple residents commented that their taxes also pay for The Thread or the school system, which they do not use.
Near the end of the public hearing, Crews polled attendees and the group overwhelmingly chose the option for no changes and to increase the sanitation millage rate to pay for it. No one in the audience supported any of the other options.
Crews again reiterated that no decision has been made on the matter despite comments he has seen on social media. He said the commissioners will likely decide within 10 days to budget for next year.