Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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November 20th, 2009

Call it what you want it is still a tax increase

The Sullivan County legislature voted last week to initiate a new waste fee of $181 per year. Some taxpayers argue it will dig them deeper into a hole and potentially force some businesses to close.

The new fee, obviously a fancy term for a tax increase, will be in addition to any other increase that will be implemented after the budget process is over.

Chairman Jonathan Rouis claims if it were labeled a tax only 85% of property owners would have to pay. “The logical decision was charging a rationally-based user fee that spreads the costs of the system of 100% of the property owners.”

County Manager David Fanslau sat down with me on Monday to discuss the new fee that has enraged so many people. Fanslau made it clear if the fee was not approved taxpayers would have had to pay even more through tax increases. He argued the type of mechanism being created actually saves money because it forces those who would not have had to pay to pay. The fee schedule for businesses and institutions is still being worked out.

Legislators David Sager and Alan Sorensen, the only two naysayers, contend the vote happened too fast and did not address a number of flaws including recycling.

Fanslau claims the legislature directed his office to move forward back in March. He also said he has made presentations to local towns on the subject matter for months.

Rationalizing the fee, Fanslau said, “Local haulers indicated approximately 50% of the monthly fees were tipping fees, while the other 50% was transportation, and administration. A family currently spending $35 per month to dispose of their waste through a private hauler pays $420 annually. Under the user fee system and taking into account a 50% reduction in fees associated with tipping costs, that same family would pay $210 for disposal and $180 in user fees, for a total of $390, or a $30 reduction in their household expenses.  Moreover, residents will have the option of taking their solid waste and recyclables to the central transfer station in Monticello, or the 5 other convenience stations without paying a per bag fee, as the user fee will cover that expense.”

Elwin Wood said he did his research before voting. “I went out into my district and spoke to constituents and town board members who ultimately supported this plan, including the Town of Neversink Board who advocated moving forward with this user fee system rather than a double-digit tax increase.”

Ron Hiatt said, “It’s the best alternative to a 12% tax increase. There’s plenty of time for adjustments going forward.”

Kathleen LaBuda discussing the solid waste system said, “Since we were unable to get permitting for Phase 2 we had to find other solutions. This is not perfect, but is the most equitable solution where not-for-profit and tax exempt properties that use the system share in paying for it. It’s a work-in-progress and we will continue to work at it.”

Sager disagrees it is a work in progress. Although he admits he is not “necessarily opposed” to a user fee system, he adds, “The devil is in the details and this plan has more holes than a wedge of Swiss cheese.”

Sager added, “Alan and I are not responsible for the accrual of $41 million in landfill related debt nor are we responsible for the likely $8-10 million wasted on blindly adhering to a Phase II Expansion that made no economic sense.”

For his part, Sorensen said the new law will invite out-of-county trash, discourage recycling and place an “undue financial burden on small business owners and residents who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

Both Sager and Sorensen argue recycling should play a role, but Rouis disagrees. “I do not find a strong correlation between charging a tipping fee and increasing recycling. Charging an exorbitant tipping fee is not a guarantee that people will recycle, but it is a guarantee that people will pay more to dispose of their waste, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.”

It is important to note that the newly created user fee does not include the costs of hiring a hauler to pick up our trash and the fees associated with it.

Without a doubt, the new tax or fee as they like to call it, will pose an additional hardship on Sullivan County taxpayers, and wait, the best is yet to come.

1 comment to Call it what you want it is still a tax increase

  • Phil Featherbay


    Reminds me of a saying my father had. Would the last one to leave please turn out the lights. If not the politicans will find a way of making me pay for that too.

    Enjoy your articles keep it up. Maybe you will be able to make an honest politican out of them.