Horry County Solid Waste revenue to drop at least $400K without construction debris requirement

jrodriguez@thesunnews.comMarch 13, 2014 

— The Horry County Solid Waste Authority is expecting growth in municipal solid waste and in collections of construction and demolition tipping fees because of increased building permits, but that growth likely won’t cover a $400,000 projected loss in revenue because the county eliminated flow control earlier this year.

The authority presented its budget this week at a pre-budget workshop, which shows a projected $13.1 million in revenue in its 2015 budget – $400,000 less in the next fiscal year than this year.

Danny Knight, executive director of the authority, said that figure includes projections of a 2 percent increase in municipal solid waste and a 6 percent increase in construction and demolition, or C&D, debris, which, he said, is based on a slow increase in building permits.

“The growth is in those figures, but our best guess right now is we’re going to lose this amount of C&D,” Knight said. “These projections can change up to the final reading of this budget by County Council.”

The authority operates independently of the county, but still must report back to the council, which ultimately can dictate rules and regulations. For instance, the projected loss in revenue is because of action by council earlier this year that redacted a previously enforced ordinance that required construction and demolition debris to stay in the county’s landfill, therefore earning money for the landfill through tipping fees. Haulers now are able to take debris created in Horry County to landfills outside of the county, where tipping fees traditionally have been lower.

Horry County’s tipping fees are higher than those in neighboring counties because it chooses to affix fees for recycling education in the school system, post landfill closure and business recycling fees in its tipping fees.

The projected loss is based, in part, on a comparison of the first week in March in 2013 and 2014. That comparison showed a 33 percent reduction in tipping fees this year compared to last. Some may argue the weather was different this year compared to last, but according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Horry County saw nearly three inches of more precipitation in February 2013 compared to February 2014. Precipitation can cause delays in construction. Also, the average temperature was only one degree lower in the same time period, according to the weather service.

James Cokley, chairman of the authority’s board, said the figures are heading to a trend the board does not want to see.

“So if that continues throughout the month and the rest of the year, then we’re going to end with a drastic reduction than what we had planned,” Cokley said. Authority officials have estimated that if those figures continue, the authority could lose about 14,000 tons annually, or $380,000 in tipping fees.

“We’re actually going back to revenue in 2012,” Cokley said.

Five positions at the authority have already been impacted through attrition because of the C&D portion of flow control being repealed.

Mike Bessant, special projects and governmental affairs manager for the authority, said there are still ramifications of the repeal to be felt this fiscal year, which ends in June.

“Our projected revenue for 2014, we might not even meet it because of the reduction of tipping fees,” Bessant said.

Bessant said 2015’s revenue projection is about $795,000 less than the 2014 budget, but an increase in interest from investments, an increase in projected electronic waste and adjustments in funding depreciation has reduced the loss to about $400,000.

He said the authority has been working since July to prepare for the council’s repeal of the C&D portion of flow control by reducing expenses and eliminating outsourcing of some work and bringing those tasks, like advertising, in-house.

Funds crucial to the operation and future closing of the landfill, such as the future landfill closure and post closure and future landfill construction line items, are expected to be affected by the C&D repeal.

“We don’t know what the total impact is going to be as of yet,” Bessant said. “We’re always looking at anything that we can cut out.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.

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