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County discusses creating property tax fee for trash

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Instead of paying when it’s time to take out the trash, Rowan County Manager Aaron Church wonders whether locals would prefer a fee tacked onto tax bills.

During a budget presentation earlier this month, Church floated an idea to put an extra $10 on Rowan County property tax bills in exchange for the ability to freely take trash to the county’s landfill or the seven convenience sites. Church said the county wouldn’t be able to implement the fee in time for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1, but he wanted to receive feedback to decide about future implementation.

“I feel sure we’ll get feedback,” he said. “Maybe we’ll even get an editorial written about recycling center fees. We’ll know the appetite of the community and the county … even though it is only $10, it is another fee on the tax bills.”

He used a personal story to compare the current way trash is handled at convenience centers to what the future might look like.

Church said he recently forgot to bring his family’s trash to the street for collection. He drove to the county’s convenience center on Julian Road to drop off the garbage. Church said he dropped off five or six trash bags at the site. The cost was $3.50, he said.

If trash is bagged, he said, people are charged a fee based on weight. People who take recyclable materials to the county’s convenience centers are not charged. The charge is subjective when garbage isn’t bagged, he said.

“There’s not a real science to it, or maybe there is,” he said. “It’s like a half of a truck, a full truck, a super overflow truck, you know, different prices. It is cash-based and that can be problematic. At one point in time, it was a good way to run (convenience) centers.”

Instead of people paying for each trip to drop off trash, Church proposes implementing a fee. In exchange, Rowan County taxpayers would receive a sticker to show county employees when dropping off garbage.

“All you’re really trying to do is make sure that people from other counties aren’t bringing their trash,” he said about the sticker.

The $10 annual fee Church proposes would generate about $540,000 per year. By comparison, the county currently generates about $132,000 from the existing charges, Church said.

He said issues with his idea include: that people who live in a municipality already pay for garbage pickup and that usage could increase as a result of a change.

“It’s just something I’d like the board to think about and talk about,” Church said.

Asked recently about the proposal, county commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said he thinks it’s good Church raised the idea. Edds didn’t say definitively whether he supported the idea but said people will begin to talk about a trash fee and express an opinion to county commissioners. Edds said there will be “a tremendous amount of planning and study” that needs to occur before the fee on tax bills gets approved.

County Commissioner Mike Caskey said he thinks it’s an interesting idea.

Although the fee won’t take effect in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, county commissioners could decide to discuss the idea during their budget work session, which is scheduled for June 5 at 1 p.m. in the county administration building.

To test the idea, Church has said the county could decide to send out the stickers at no charge for a year. Other ideas he mentioned include: people paying a $10 fee the first time trash is dropped off and receiving a sticker for the following year. That variation, however, would generate less revenue, he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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