Tiverton’s Forthcoming Garbage Tax

It appears to have fallen through the online cracks, but I’ve got the following letter in the current issue of the Sakonnet Times:

On December 14, Tiverton’s town council meeting included a public hearing concerning a proposed “pay as you throw” trash program to fund the closure of the town landfill in five or so years. Basically, residents would have to buy garbage bags from the town at a cost of $2 for a 33 gallon bag or $1 for a 15 gallon bag.
Figuring a ridiculously low single bag per household, the Landfill Committee estimates that the program would generate $520,000 per year. Taxpayers currently allocate an annual $573,000 for trash pickup. In other words, the cost of rubbish disposal for residents of the town of Tiverton would more than double.
It’s too little known, around town, that the local government has failed to adequately prepare — over the half century of the landfill’s usage — for the millions of dollars in expenditures that loom just over the horizon. Without action, the restricted account set aside for that purpose will be several million dollars short when it’s finally needed, even without considering the additional cost to develop and build a transfer station to process trash on its journey out of town.
Clearly, something must be done, but as currently constituted, the “pay as you throw” program would be nothing other than a massive hidden tax increase that skirts the Paiva-Weed tax cap, leaving homeowners open to another large increase on top of the new “fee.” Even residents willing to forgo pickup and bring trash, themselves, to the landfill would have to buy the bags and pay for pickup, anyway. In other words, it’s a fee for a service that most residents have no choice but to utilize. It’s a tax.
The more straightforward approach would be for the town to place an increase in landfill-related savings within its next budget. Of course, that wouldn’t answer a secondary (and supremely advisable) purpose of the program: encouraging recycling and more conscientious trash disposal. Perhaps curbside pickup could move to a fee system, or residents could “opt out” and receive a refund of that portion of their property taxes.
Or there might be another solution. Whatever the case, the council continued the hearing to its regularly scheduled meeting on January 25. If residents tune this issue out now, the next they hear of it may be when official instructions arrive in their mailboxes explaining how to pay for trash pickup a second time.

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