Council majority leaning to pay-as-you-throw

LACONIA — With the City Council scheduled to choose among four options for restructuring the curbside collection of trash at a special meeting on Wednesday, April 24, a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) program appears to command the narrowest of majorities with the six councilors evenly divided and Mayor Mike Seymour breaking the stalemate.
On March 23, when Seymour, along with councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3), Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) appeared on "The Advocates," the radio talk show hosted by conservative activist Niel Young, Bolduc, who favors so-called mandatory recycling over PAYT remarked "I'm outnumbered three-to-one here this morning." Lipman and Hamel, along with Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), have voiced their support for PAYT while Councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4), with Bolduc, prefer the mandatory option.
Among all the options, PAYT is the most controversial but ensures the greatest increase in recycling and offers the greatest cost savings. It encourages recycling by requiring residents to place the trash and garbage they do not recycle in a special, colored plastic bag purchased at local retail outlets. Trash would be collected at the curbside once a week and recyclables every other week. Trash not contained in a marked bag would be left at the curb.
PAYT shifts the cost of handling solid waste from property taxpayers to households, businesses and other organizations through the purchase of marked bags.
Assuming that PAYT leads to recycling 30-percent of the solid waste stream — some think it could be considerably higher, the program is projected to save $286,000 by diverting recyclables from the solid waste stream and, net of $130,000 it costs to collect recyclables, spare $156,000 in funding from property taxes.
Some 3,780 tons of trash would remain to be collected at the curb at a cost of $567,000. The annual tonnage would require the sale of some 378,000 marked bags priced at $1.75 apiece. Over 10 years the program would spare $1.7-million in property taxes.
Speaking to Young on the radio, the three advocates for PAYT agreed that to overcome the complaint that requiring the purchase of trash bags amounted to being taxed for the same service twice, savings would be returned to taxpayers — virtually the entire amount in the first year and in smaller increments thereafter.
City Manager Scott Myers suggested on Tuesday that the proceeds from the sale of bags — $661,500 — could be added to revenues from sources other than property taxes, offsetting an equal amount of property taxes. At the same time, the cost of purchasing the bags — approximately $80,000 — would be added to expenditures.
The effect on the proposed 2013-2014 city budget would be to increase expenditures from $21,563,162 to $21,643,162 and revenues from $6,565,695 to $7,227,195. As a result the amount to be raised by property taxes would be reduced by $581,500, or 3.9-percent, from $14,997,467 to $14,415,967, which is less than was raised last year. The reduction in the tax commitment would exceed the increase of $480,431 projected by the budget by $101,069.
Furthermore, reducing the amount to be raised by property taxes lowers the base from which the tax cap is calculated in subsequent years, incrementally restricting future increases in spending. The tax cap limits the annual increase in the tax commitment to the sum of two factors: first, the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index — Urban (CPIU), for the prior calendar year and second, the property tax revenue derived from the assessed value of new construction. Of the two factors, the rate of inflation is the most important. For example, this year the inflation factor represents $804,974, or 70-percent, of additional expenditures while new construction accounts for $357,000.
Those who favor PAYT stress that it offers the most effective means of mitigating the impact of the rising cost of collecting, transporting and incinerating solid waste by increasing the volume of recycling. Lipman noted that the current cost is $150.73 a ton and is slated to rise by $6 in October. "As the cost of trash disposal, it crowds out other necessary expenditures," he said. "We have to choose between a wasteful practice and police and fire protection, our roads and our schools."