Orange County Residents Pan Recycling District Tax Plan

By Elizabeth Friend Posted March 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm

CHAPEL HILL- Orange County residents told the Board of Commissioners that while they love recycling, they don’t love the idea of a new solid waste service district tax.

“This seems like a line that’s being stepped over here, creating this as a tax,” said Lynne Jaffe. “I totally want to support recycling, but it doesn’t feel fair. It doesn’t feel right.”

Jaffe was one of fifteen speakers at Tuesday night’s public hearing asking the board to come up with new options to fund rural curbside recycling pick-up.

Loren Hintz was one of four to speak in favor of the plan. He represented the Orange County Commission for the Environment which endorses the proposal.

“The individual cost for the new tax district is similar to the old recycling fee,” said Hintz. “It is a relatively small cost compared to the benefit the recycling program will give to the entire county.”

If the solid waste service district plan is approved, roadside recycling pick-up would be funded by a 1.5 cent increase on the property tax rate for all land-owners in the new district, regardless of whether they use the service.

The tax would apply to empty lots and farmland as well as homes, a point that frustrated several speakers.

“It is not similar to the fire tax, as stated in the county proposal,” said Marsha Efland. “Fire service can be utilized on each parcel of land that a person owns, whereas a tax on recycling on an undeveloped farm or forest cannot be utilized.”

Currently, the pick-up service is available to approximately 13,750 homes in Orange County, and the majority of rural residents take their trash and recycling to one of five solid waste convenience centers. Theresa Edwards said she prefers it that way.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to pay for a service that we’ll never use, and we’ll never use this service because we live on a private gravel road.” said Edwards. “If I’m going to put my stuff into my car and drive it four-tenths of a mile, I’m not going to dump it on the side of the road where it can blow God knows where, I’m going to take it on to the convenience center, which I’m happy to say, really is a great convenience center. If you want to do something good for us, put the hours back up to seven days a week at the convenience center.”

The board is scrambling to find a new funding model for the pick-up service since a court decision called into question the county’s legal authority to charge a rural recycling fee. Funding for the current fiscal year runs out in July.

As an alternative to the service district plan, commissioners had previously discussed a subscription model that would allow residents to opt out of the program, but some worry that might lead to a drop in recycling rates.

The board will hold another public hearing on the plan scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on April 1 at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough.

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