Garbage costs won’t fall until end of year, mayor says

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vicksburg residents who were expecting a break on their garbage bills in the wake of a new garbage collection contract between the city and Waste Management will have to wait until city officials are able to reduce an $835,755 debt in the solid waste fund.

The debt is what the fund owes the city’s general fund for loans to support solid waste costs.

Mayor Paul Winfield said he expects the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to cut the present $19.95 per month garbage fee in December or January. He said he did not know how much the fee reduction might be.

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The garbage pickup fee is included in the monthly bill for city water and sewage.

The board in June approved a six-year contract with Waste Management in which the company agreed to charge the city $11.16 per household and small business per month. Winfield said the city would realize $2.5 million in savings.

He said the solid waste fund is an enterprise fund that is supposed to stand on its own, and the debt was built up during previous administrations, which transferred money from the general fund to solid waste.

City accountant Doug Whittington said the transfers from the general fund to solid waste were done by interfund loans, which, by state law, must be repaid to the general fund.

According to city accounting department records, the solid waste fund in fiscal 2006 owed the general fund $558,586, and received a $252,000 interfund loan from the general fund.

In 2007, city records showed, the fund owed $648,221 and received a general fund loan of $89,635. In 2008, the last time it received an interfund loan, the solid waste fund received a loan from the general fund of $187,534, boosting the amount owed to $835,755.

Paul Rogers, the city’s former strategic planner from 2001 to 2009 under Mayor Laurence Leyens, said each transfer was approved by the mayor and aldermen. He said the loans in 2006, ’07 and ’08 were made because user fees were insufficient to cover the costs of the solid waste program.

“When the new administration came into office in 2009, they raised the garbage fee from $17.89 to $19.95 a month on my advice,” Whittington said. “It (the solid waste fund) was able to break even for that (fiscal) year.”

Winfield said waiting until December or January before reducing the garbage fee will give the city time to sufficiently reduce the solid waste debt. He said the reduced rate will provide enough money to repay the debt.

“If we had gone ahead and cut the garbage fee after the contract, it would have taken longer for the fund to repay the money,” he said. “By waiting, we’ll be able to pay off the deficit quicker.”