While presenting the Kosciusko County Solid Waste Management District’s 2024 budget to the County Council Thursday, Director Tom Ganser explained how the closing of all the recycling drop-off stations last year saved the county money.
He presented his proposed 2024 budget as $451,057. Looking at the 2024 budget compared to 2023’s he said there’s a significant reduction in it.
“Long story short, as you know we closed the residential recycling drop-off for materials like tin, aluminum, paper, and we had nine different drop-off sites throughout the county,” Ganser said.
At the time, there were a couple of considerations from the district’s board.
“A.) The program is broke. We were doing over 2,000 tons a year and capturing about half of that for recycling,” he said. Those drop-off sites across the county were used for everything “from recycling to whatever. So we had a lot of trash.”
Looking at the budget coming into 2023, Ganser said, “That program alone, going back to the contractors, they don’t like it. If they’re going to spend the money to do the transportation, hauling it, they want to get clean recyclables. So, the additional costs in transportation because of everything that’s going on, and then on top of that, you take a look at the recycling markets, they’re dismal.”
As an example, he said 10 years ago corrugated cardboard could have been $200-$220 a ton. They’re barely getting $50 a ton now.
“Long story short, looking at that contract, it would have been have been half a million dollars - so my entire budget and then some, just for that program. And only to capture half of that, the board felt like it’s time to finally shut down the process that was not successful, not doing what it needed to do,” Ganser said.
While the district was going through that transition, he said he met with many of the independent haulers and the private sector stepped up.
“We had Waste Management open up a full drop-off site at their location - glass, plastics, corrugated, aluminum cans,” he said. “On top of that, if you look at Stafford’s, they did a limited pick-up - so they take cardboard, newspaper, tin, aluminum cans. Lewis opened up for cardboard, tin and aluminum cans. With that said, Bordens also offers a curbside option for many of the residents in the county.”
Looking back at the budget, Ganser said the reduction in it is because of the elimination of the recycling services.
Ganser said the wages in the budget will reflect whatever the council’s recommendations are.
Councilwoman Kimberly Cates asked, “When you got rid of the recycling, you saved the county $473,250 in next year’s budget, is that correct? Because the council people get a lot of questions and concerns about that. ... That’s a lot of money, $473,250 is a lot of money.”
Ganser said it would have been more because “when we were budgeting this time last year, we did not have definitive dollars yet on what those contracts were. And as it was, we had two vendors out of seven actually come in and bid on that contract. So, $500,000 was an accurate number to capture 1,000 tons of recyclables. That’s expensive recycling.”
Looking at the district’s revenue stream for next year, he said it’s about where their budget is. He maintained they will still have a tax rate next year of 0.0001%, which is the lowest they can be.
The Recycling Depot still provides Kosciusko County residents with electronics recycling, household hazardous waste (gas, oil, antifreeze, pesticides, insecticides and “anything you can think of, that you need to get rid of, as long as it’s in its original packaging”) disposal. “We’ll take it and find a recycling spot for it,” he said.
Latex paint comes in and is given out to about 50 county residents a day.
Councilman Dave Wolkins said, “When they did away with the recycling, my breakfast club that I have every morning was quite adamant about why do we even have a solid waste board, and they have a tremendous brochure which tells you everything that they recycle. And I had no idea on the paint situation - how much comes in and how much goes out - they do a good job doing what they do.”
Cates said, from her understanding, the district board was really in a quandary for six to eight months because they wanted to provide the recycling service but it would have been a half million dollars for the taxpayers.
“We did,” Ganser agreed. “In order to get that recycling clean, it takes manpower. And when we start talking about eight to nine sites, immediately we thought about reductions and then on top of that, where are you going to house these people? And the additional labor and equipment just to be able to do that. So $500,000 looked like maybe $1.2 million, $1.5 million, and then if we started to try to reduce transportation factors, you’re talking $2 million, $2.5 million for just those programs.”
The council approved for the full-time district employees to receive $2,000 raises in 2024 and the district’s 2024 budget.
The county council also had a public hearing for the Turkey Creek Dam and Dike Conservancy’s 2024 budget.
David Johnston, treasurer for the conservancy, reported the total general fund for 2024 is $163,200. The budget for 2023 was $112,900. He
“The increase is due to a new expense we are incurring, which is to help with” monitoring of Lake Wawasee’s water level to keep it at the designated level, he said.
The total cumulative improvement budget for 2024 is $150,000, down from the 2023 budget of $475,000, which was to take care of the dike. With the dike project completed, the budget was decreased for next year, he stated.
“The property tax leverage proposed on the Gateway budget for 2024 are $163,200 for the general fund and $150,000 for the cumulative conservancy improvement fund,” Johnston said.
In 2023, the property tax levy was $313,029 “so the levey is effectively the same,” he said. The district’s tax rate for 2023 is $0.0214, and Johnston said it will eventually be the same for 2024 if there’s no change in the net assessed value. If the average value raises in 2024, he said, then the tax rate would probably decrease.
The council unanimously approved the conservancy’s budget.