City Councilor Sweetie Marbury suggested Tuesday that La Plata County needs to help pay for the city’s recycling program, which is about to undergo a $1.6 million expansion to a single-stream system, possibly requiring city residents with curbside pickup to pay a new monthly $3 fee next year under the proposed city budget for 2013.
During a study session with the county commission, Marbury said it was only fair to split costs because “eventually, all recycling ends up under the auspices of the city of Durango.”
“I’ve heard Commissioner (Kellie) Hotter say ‘Well, I pay city sales taxes.’ Well, so do I. I think it’s a fair thing to ask the county to come up with some funding because all your county residents do a lot of recycling,” she said.
“They’re tremendous. People are so conscientious about wanting to recycle, bringing in their newspaper, cardboard, et cetera,” Marbury said. “I think it’s important to recognize that county residents are recycling and that the city is paying for it.”
City Manager Ron LeBlanc verified that “all collected material from the county or the city goes to the municipal system that’s (operated by) an enterprise fund, so the fees generated by residential pickup is what’s supporting the plan.”
Private haulers from the county “drop off their materials (at the city recycling center) for free,” LeBlanc said.
Durango Mayor Doug Lyon said this is a “complex issue” that would benefit from an “economic analysis,” recognizing, too, the city also benefits from the sale of recyclables, such as cardboard.
County Manager Joe Kerby then read a written comment from County Commissioner Hotter, who is recovering from a jaw injury. Her note said the city was off topic.
“We are here to discuss the joint sales tax (fund), which will be at a deficit in two years,” Hotter’s note said. “The focus should be on the joint sales tax. I am not sure how this fits into today’s discussion.”
Because the operating costs of the joint sales tax’s three designated beneficiaries – Durango Public Library, La Plata County Senior Services and landfill – have been exceeding annual revenue, the county and city have been drawing down the fund’s reserves to cover annual deficits.
Its fund balance, which was $425,639 in 2010, is expected to be drawn down to $80,000 by the end of 2013, which would not be enough to cover its historical annual deficits of $100,000 or more in 2014, unless future tax revenue is much better than the projected 2 percent growth for 2013.
The joint sales-tax fund receives about 11 percent of the revenue generated by the county’s 2-cent sales tax.
Next year, the fund is expected to generate about $1.9 million, but costs are projected at $2.1 million, with the library receiving $1.8 million, senior services getting $300,000 and the landfill about $10,000.
The looming shortfall is “a train that’s been heading toward us a long time,” Lyon said.
Because the La Plata County and the city of Durango are covered through 2013, the next elected boards of the county commission and the City Council will have decide what to do in the future, said Lyon, who is term-limited and can’t run for re-election in April 2013.
For the short term, the plan, as County Commissioner Bobby Lieb put it, is to “punt.”