While the budgeting process for WSWMD is a work in progress, early indications show Wilmington’s share will be an increase of $2,000 to $3,000 from last year and in the ballpark of $21,000 total. Previous projections showed an increase of 20% for the fiscal year, but after paring down the budget proposal, the district found more room for savings.
Mundell says that the annual assessments are based on the cost of the recycling process as well as trucking, while the process of paring down the budget focuses on limiting unnecessary spending. “We’re a municipality,” said Mundell. “As such, we have to follow rules like a municipality, and it’s all in the total process of how a municipality pares down a budget. We look through to see where savings can happen by, say, buying used if we need a new truck, and we eliminate some things that are not necessary, and decide whether we hire new employees.”
Currently, towns pay for their assessed share of the district’s budget through a budget line item. However, Mundell says it may be wise for towns to begin using a surcharge instead of a line item in the near future.
Surcharges are based on each ton of trash generated in the district, and WSWMD is the only waste district in the state that does not use this method. In a memorandum to the selectboard, Mundell explained that using a $5 surcharge per ton would generate $110,000, since the district generates 22,000 tons of waste annually. In order for the town to use a surcharge to cover their assessment, rates would need to be raised per bag of trash at the transfer station by 0.075 cents to cover the surcharge, or 0.15 to cover a $10 surcharge. However, Mundell also explained this charge would piggyback the $6 surcharge already collected by the state. In order to change to surcharging, the entire district would have to vote on the switch.
“It got started as an assessment based on population,” said Mundell. “ The assessment covers everything that has to do with recycling, all solid waste disposal, household hazardous wastes, and the education component through ads to advise and assist people on how to correctly dispose of their waste.”
Properly disposing of waste is becoming an even more prevalent issue as Vermont institutes Act 148, which aims to improve the rate of diverting valuable materials from landfills. Within the next seven years, the act looks to ban the disposal of certain solid wastes including food waste, leaf and yard residuals, and recyclable items. Facility owners that offer services for managing trash must also offer services for managing these three types of waste within the next four years. Haulers that offer services for managing trash must also offer these services.
According to Mundell, the implementation of Act 148 will be slow, but raises questions as to how the WSWMD will have to adapt. “It’s a great big question mark in everyone’s minds,” said Mundell. “It has the potential, unless the Legislature modifies it, of just costing way in excess of what we envisioned. It requires people to recycle everything, trash, compost, and plastic, with almost zero landfill effect, and that will be a really challenging operation.”