I have a few concerns about Pay As You Thow implementation for our town. Although I completely agree that we all need to be responsible for our own waste, I hope we can be very careful about how we choose to create this program. Some of the selectboard members have made comments that indicate an interest in possibly removing this line item from our budget completely and passing those costs directly to our townspeople. In other posts on this site there have been comments about how this is a cost shift and that is true in a number of different ways that we really need to pay attention to.
Currently, our municipal taxes pay for our trash pickup. It is a line item in our municipal budget, and all of the grand list is assessed the tax. That means that businesses contribute to this cost even though our businesses are responsible for providing their own waste disposal. If we go to a PAYT program that is not part of our municipal budget, we will see a reduction of our municipal tax but each homeowner will most likely be paying more since there is no subsidy from our businesses on the grand list. Businesses will have a tax reduction with no corresponding increase in costs.
Speaking of subsidies, an analysis of our town by the Finance Committee showed that more than two-thirds of our property taxpayers are receiving a subsidy from the state to offset their property tax bill. This includes the school portion and the overall cap (circuit breaker) that includes the municipal tax to help protect lower income households from the high costs of the property taxes. If we go to a PAYT system that is outside the municipal tax, these tax subsidies for low income folks will disappear and these homeowners will have to pay the full amount of the cost of trash removal. For these taxpayers, the business subsidy AND the state subsidy will potentially be gone.
To put this into rough numbers, we are projected to pay around $1 million for our municipal waste expenses for 2015. Since we have approximately 2,700 households that comes out to approximately $370 per household. I know that some people on this site have commented that such a number is no big deal, a little over a dollar a day so we can do without that cup of coffee. But from my perspective, it means everyone who is a wage owner has to earn over $500 to pay this or about one entire paycheck (or more) for a lot of our townspeople.
And, don't forget, those water and sewer bills that are slated to rise significantly in the coming years to pay for that shiny new infrastructure, and there is no state property tax subsidy to help with that either.