Garbage fees for Macon-Bibb County residents could be added to property tax bills as a way to improve the collection rate.
However, a proposed fee increase has some commissioners reluctant to approve the ordinance as it now stands, but two county officials say the new costs would cover services the county will face in the future.
On Tuesday, the Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Committee of the Whole is scheduled to discuss the proposal to move garbage and recycling fees to the annual tax bill instead of a separate statement sent out quarterly. The proposal is the latest suggestion on how officials could increase the collection rate as Macon-Bibb deals with about $7 million in uncollected garbage fees.
In recent years, the property tax collection rate has been about 97 percent, compared to about 90 percent for garbage fee collections.
The idea was first broached to the County Commission in summer 2016, meaning that officials have had plenty of time to receive feedback, Commissioner Gary Bechtel said.
“I think all of it will be debated very, very intensely,” he said. “Each district has different people who want it one way or the other.
“I think it’s the right thing to do in terms of improving collections as well as being efficient. When we send out separate bills, that requires printing, postage, so that’s a fee ... we can dispense with. Plus you’ll get a higher collection amount because it’ll go by parcels as opposed to users.”
But Bechtel and Commissioner Virgil Watkins said they are hesitant about approving a cost increase that would start in 2019. Collection fees were raised in 2016 despite the objections of some commissioners as Macon-Bibb ramped up its recycling program and entered into a contract with Advanced Disposal.
“Someone really would have to justify to me strongly why we should raise the fees again,” Watkins said.
Macon-Bibb residents would not face an increase over the first 15 months of service under the updated ordinance. The first bill of $300 would cover October 2017 through Dec. 31, 2018, which is the same $20 monthly rate now being paid.
But the following year, the monthly fee would jump to $22. That would mean garbage and recycling services would cost $264 in 2019 compared to $240 under the current structure.
The fee could change in subsequent years based on the consumer price index that measures the average prices of services, according to the ordinance.
Before the new fee structure and contract with Advanced Disposal, solid waste services were being subsidized by the county’s general fund. So people living in the county were paying a collection fee and offsetting the costs through their property tax bills, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.
Without the fee increase proposed in the ordinance, Macon-Bibb would have to play catch-up to cover future costs with Advanced Disposal, Solid Waste Director Kevin Barkley said.
“What we’re doing is building (fee changes) into the ordinance so we don’t have to come back to the commission year after year to cover the costs,” he said.
The shift in how garbage fees are collected last changed in 2006, when the process moved from the Macon Water Authority to the tax commissioner’s office, with the goal of boosting a lackluster 73 percent collection rate. The Macon-Bibb County code says the tax commissioner has the ability to place liens on properties if an owner is delinquent on garbage fees.
More garbage containers could soon be available to Macon residents.
The commission’s Operations and Finance committee will take up a resolution Tuesday to buy 2,874 containers for about $140,000. The county now has a backlog of about 1,900 requests for the 96-gallon cans that have been rolling out since last year.
“As soon as we met the (last) demand, the demand started to increase,” Barkley said.
The county still has about 1,500 recycling bins available.