Solid waste victory could be small one

    Solid waste districts across Indiana won a small victory in the recent General Assembly session, but that success could be short-lived, according to Adams County solid waste director Hank Mayer.
    Speaking Monday morning to the sold waste district's board of directors, Mayer said a proposed Senate bill which would have eliminated or severely hampered the district's taxing authority was shelved by lawmakers during this year's legislative session, which ended earlier this month. That bill, however, was replaced by a House version which Mayer said still could could have severe negative effects on the ability of local waste districts to raise and collect property tax revenue.
    Mayer said Senate Bill 210, authored by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, was replaced by House Bill 131. While the House version placed additional reporting requirements on solid waste districts, Mayer said, it did not immediately strip solid waste districts of their ability to collect tax dollars.
    A provision of the legislation does require regular, five-year assessments of individual solid waste districts and the requirement that the results of those assessments to be published online. The bill also calls for a summer study commission to convene this year to further investigate the taxing issue.
    County solid waste board attorney Tim Baker believes the requirement that districts be evaluated every five years could have long-term ramifications for the local district.
    "It adds uncertainty as it pertains to our contracts" for solid waste hauling and disposal, Baker said. "We currently have 10-year contracts, and I feel this bill as written would harm our ability to enter into long-term agreements which have allowed us to gain favorable rates."
    Baker said if solid waste districts lose their ability to generate tax revenue, trash disposal rates will go up significantly. "It would harm the cities financially, and I also think you'd begin to see trash being dumped all over the county."
    Safeguards are already in place, Baker said, to limit the maximum amount of property tax revenue solid waste districts may collect annually.
    "And the solid waste district's (annual operating) budget is already subject to review by the county council," Baker added. "I'd just prefer that it was local officials making these decisions rather than people in Indianapolis."
    Mayer offered thanks to State Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, and State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, for their support during the recent legislative session. He told board members he will continue to monitor the status of the legislation.