Legislation scheduled for a summer study session by Indiana lawmakers could have a devastating effect on the operation of the Adams County Solid Waste Management District if approved in its current form, according to local solid waste officials.
Hank Mayer, director of the county's solid waste district, on Monday updated board members on legislation proposed by State Sen. Beverly Gard, a Republican whose district includes Hancock, Henry and a portion of Hamilton counties. The legislation as written would strip from solid waste district's throughout Indiana the ability to rely on tax revenues to operate waste districts.
The effect of Senate Bill 565, said Mayer, would be that the Adams County Solid Waste District would lose some $700,000 in annual operating revenue. "It would have a detrimental affect on our ability to function at all," he said, and would similarly impose a financial hardship on cities and towns served by the district.
If the district was barred from collecting property tax receipts, Mayer said fees for trash disposal at the county transfer station would need to triple to make up for that lost revenue. And that, he said, would result in more garbage being dumped illegally along roadways, ditches and other areas of the county.
The director urged members of the board to contact lawmakers and voice opposition to SB 565. "We are trying to get this stripped at the very beginning," he said.
Attorney Tim Baker, legal counsel for the solid waste district, said the proposed bill "doesn't make any sense whatsoever for Adams County." He said Sen. Gard seems to have a problem with the operation of the Lake County solid waste district.
"Her focus is on them, but we are being lumped into the same situation," said Baker. We need to make our lawmakers understand that we are not Lake County and we are not part of the problem."
Baker provided some historical background, noting that the Adams County Solid Waste Management District was required by state law at the time of its formation to establish a property tax rate. When local directors suggested a rate of 11.5 cents per $100 of valuation, state authorities said that rate was too low. In the years since that time, the state has put in place maximum tax rates.
Baker said the local solid waste district currently imposes a 4.4-cent per $100 property tax rate. "We've never been close to the maximum," he said.
While any final decision by legislators on SB 565 is more than a year away, the uncertainty surrounding future funding will have an immediate effect on local solid waste planners. Budget plans for 2012 will begin within a few months, said Baker.
And Mayer told board members of the need to purchase a new front-end loader for use at the transfer station — an expenditure of $120,000 or more. But faced with the potential loss of property tax revenues, which account for half the district's annual operating budget, Mayer said he was concerned about proceeding with the purchase of new equipment.
County Commissioner and solid waste board member Kim Fruechte said the board should write to all Indiana lawmakers — not just those representing the county — to express their displeasure with the proposed legislation.