South Whitehall Commissioners are not done hearing complaints about a recent 20 percent increase residents are seeing in their trash/recycling bills. In December commissioners upped the fees from $286 to $344 a year.
Township Director of Administration Tony Ganguzza told commissioners at the time that the increase was necessary because the hauling fee portion of the township's five-year contract with J.P Mascaro & Sons, which is set to expire at the end of 2013, was going up by $63,000 next year.
Three different residents approached council Wednesday night about the hike and asked if anything could be done to help senior citizens on fixed incomes who produce much less trash than others.
Lyudmila Korsky asked commissioners if they would consider reduced rates for smaller containers or discounts for seniors.
"I don't even generate enough garbage to put on the curb every week," Korsky said.
Commissioner David Bond told one resident who complained that the township did a "terrible job of communicating" the nuances of the increase. He said the fee was escalating each of the past four years but the cost was not passed along to residents until this year.
After the meeting he explained that grants and other funding had been available to offset the increase but this year the extra money was not available. When the time comes to solicit bids for another contract for 2014, Bond said some of the suggestions made, like senior discounts or bi-weekly recycling pick ups, might be negotiable.
Commissioner Tori Morgan directed residents to a more detailed explanation of the increase on the township's website.
It reads: Dear Residents:
On behalf of the Board of Commissioners and Township Administration, we would like to offer some additional information as it relates to the yearly fee increase of the Refuse/Recycling Fund. To clarify a few points, there are 6,969 residential customers in South Whitehall Township and note the JP Mascaro costs also include the hauling costs of the Yard & Garden Center. Since the five (5) year contract started with JP Mascaro in 2009, the hauler fee has outpaced the charge to the residential customer. The numbers for the last four (4) years are as follows:
2009: Residential Charge - $262/yr; JP Mascaro Charge - $294
2010: Residential Charge - $285/yr; JP Mascaro Charge - $297
2011: Residential Charge - $285/yr; JP Mascaro Charge - $306
2012: Residential Charge - $285/yr; JP Mascaro Charge - $315
In 2013, we will be paying JP Mascaro $324 per residential customer. If we had we kept the residential customer rate at $285 in 2013, the results would be a difference of $39/residential customer for a total of $268,242. The balance of the monies collected ($344 - $324) funds administrative salaries; Yard & Garden Center staff; postage; printing and supplies; disposal of yard & garden waste; legal and loans. The JP Mascaro contract, which ends in December of 2013, provides for the hauler to increase fees each year of the contract and in 2013 the increase is $63,792. Additionally, and unfortunately, it appears our grant funding in 2013 will be reduced by $40,000. In summary, there are a number of factors, a few noted above, that led to the 20% increase in Refuse/Recycling fees; however please note based on this increase, in 2013, we will have a balanced fund budget, where revenues will slightly exceed expenses without relying on cash from the previous year to balance the fund as well as have a reserve to account for unexpected expenses. I hope this information answers some of your questions. If you require additional information, please feel free to contact the Township at 610-398-0401. Thank you for your understanding.
Commissioner Dale Daubert asked Township Manager Jon Hammer if residents could opt out of trash service but the answer was no. Finance Manager Lenore Horos said there is a codified ordinance that declares every household must participate.