Starting this month, Johnston County residents will be paying more for the garbage decal program.
For the past few years the county has been charging $65 a year for a decal to be placed on your windshield to allow access to any of the 12 convenience sites to dispose of household waste. Starting July 1st, the fee was increased to $100 a year.
The rate increase was actually decided 14 months ago during a May 2015 public hearing to discuss the county’s trash problem. From 2003 to 2015 the county has struggled to break even on the cost of garbage collection and in 2013-14 lost about $800,000.
Several options were discussed last year on how to break even, including a higher decal fee, a $51 to $53 charge on each property tax bill or even an annual recycling fee of $5 for residents who live in the city limits of the 9 towns that provide their own garbage collection.
In the end, commissioners voted to increase the decal fee from $65 to $100, but decided to wait to implement the higher cost until July 1, 2016. During the 2015-16 fiscal year budget, County Manager Rick Hester said $900,000 from the General Fund had to be used to supplement the cost to operate the 12 convenience sites.
“I feel responsible in that I should have recommended some gradual increases over the years at budget times just to get it in a better financial position,” Hester told WTSB News.
All surrounding counties have a fee on their tax bills to supplement the cost of garbage collection but not Johnston which may be the only county in the state that has the paid decal program.
The county manager says it is too early to look at decal prices for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Hester says he plans to evaluate the costs towards the end of this year to see if the convenience sites are breaking even based on the higher fees collected from the decals. He will present his findings to county commissioners.
Other suggestions to pay for garbage disposal include pre-purchased punch cards to “pay as you throw” garbage away during each trip. Another idea was a $5 to $10 fee per license plate sold in the county to not only pay for garbage disposal but roadside litter pickup.
However, county officials believe the decal fee is the best way since it only charges customers who use the container sites. But officials admit all their fees are fair to everyone. As Commissioner Ted Godwin mentioned following the May 2015 public hearing, 55 cents of every tax dollar spent in the county goes to education, but not every resident has children in Johnston County Schools.