Solid waste district looks to continued property tax for landfill
In addition to voting for elected officers, on this November’s general election ballots, Johnson County voters will be asked whether they want to re-approve a one-mill property tax levy that currently funds the solid waste district.
The proposed tax would expire once the district collects $10 million, the amount that landfill manager Bob Fox expects will be necessary to cover the costs associated with future landfill expansions, as well as the site’s eventual closure and reclamation.
Regardless of the outcome, it appears that no one will be able to avoid the costs of trash disposal.
Without the mill levy, the solid waste district will need to raise the tipping fees paid at the dump, Fox said. Those fees currently pay for landfill operations. Fox estimated, based on five-year cost averages, that the current $75-per-ton charge would need to jump to $115 to cover expenses if the measure does not pass.
A fee increase would be immediately obvious to county residents who bring their waste to the landfill, but it would also fall upon city trucks entering the dump, a cost likely to be passed down to Buffalo residents in the form of increased trash collection charges.
The solid waste district mill levy last appeared on the Johnson County ballot and passed in 2010. That measure specified that the tax would expire either once the landfill had collected $10 million or after 10 years, whichever came first. In a year where a mill generated $1.13 million, it seemed to be a toss-up as to which that would be.
Over the next decade, the county’s valuation decreased steadily, and the district has only collected about $5.2 million. The district spent over $4 million on the recent landfill expansion, Fox said, and has about $900,000 in the bank. A memorandum of understanding dictates that 12% of the mill levy goes to Kaycee to fund its transfer center.
Even if voters renew the mill funding, tipping fees could still kick up if the county’s valuation continues to fall, Fox said. Johnson County’s tipping fees are lower than other nearby areas: One ton costs $115 in Sheridan and $150 in Douglas, Fox said.
“Your options of cheap tip fees are gone,” he said. “The mill is going to cushion that for the time being if the mill does pass. We want to try to keep that at a reasonable cost.”