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Trash, tax rates likely to rise in 2005 in Chambersburg

August 17, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The cost of trash pickup in Chambersburg has remained unchanged since December 1991, but it will go up in 2005, and increases in sewer fees and real estate taxes are not out of the question, according to Borough Manager Eric Oyer.

The borough council Monday night heard a review of the town's financial performance for the first half of this year and some projections for 2005. Oyer said the first seven months of 2004 "have been one of the most productive periods that I can remember in terms of council and staff dealing with the major challenges and issues of the borough," but added that the rest of the year and 2005 present significant challenges.

"We knew this was coming two years ago, but we held it off with the cash reserve," Director of Public Works Bob Wagner said of the impending increase in cost for trash collection. The monthly cost for residential customers has remained at $8.50 for almost 13 years, compared to $17 to $20 a month for residents of surrounding townships, he said.

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Wagner did not recommend a figure for the increase Tuesday, but said a proposal by Gov. Ed Rendell to increase the "tipping fee" for trash haulers at landfills by $7 a ton is likely to become a reality at some point. Wagner said the Rendell administration believes the fee will mean out-of-state haulers will help fund Pennsylvania environmental programs, but it also will be assessed against trash generated within the state.

If approved, it would increase the Sanitation Department's cost of depositing trash in landfills to $42.75 a ton, Wagner said.

"That's not a tax. It's a fee. Keep telling yourself that," Councilman Ken Gill said.

For this year, the department's revenues are budgeted at $1.43 million, but actual expenditures will exceed $1.7 million, Wagner said.

Council President William McLaughlin told Wagner to look into the possibility of hauling borough trash to Virginia or another state where landfill fees are lower. Wagner said transportation and other costs would have to be figured in to the equation.

The borough did receive a windfall for street work with the $790,084 it received in July for the sale of the airport to the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority. Oyer said the capital reserve fund for highways now has $1.5 million, although the public works program calls for spending $1.7 million from this year through 2006.

The borough does receive an additional $300,000 a year in state liquid fuels funds for roadwork, Oyer said.

Oyer said the borough had approximately $29 million in cash on hand in its various accounts at the end of June, down 15 percent from June 2003. While that was down about $5 million, his report stated that $6.5 million had been taken from the electric capital reserve for the construction of the Orchard Park Generating Station.

The borough's water and sewer operating funds decreased in the first half of the year compared to the first half of 2003, Oyer said. His report added, however, that a sewer rate increase "is not out of the picture" for 2005 because the state budget again did not include reimbursements for sewer plant construction and debt service on improvements to the borough system.

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