A proposed increase in the solid waste fee came under scrutiny Thursday night when the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners held its first budget workshop for the coming fiscal year.
Included in the $566.9 million budget presented at the board’s last meeting is a provision to raise the solid waste fee from $56 to $130. County administrators cited construction and maintenance projects as reasons for the increase.
When questioned by Commissioner Jimmy Keefe, County Manager Clarence Grier said those projects are currently being subsidized by the fund balance, a type of government savings account.
“If we cash fund these items and don’t increase the rate, the rate stays the same, then we have $14 million that we will need to extend the life of the landfill, and we will need to use the fund balance,” said Grier.
Amanda Bader, the county’s solid waste management director, said the county is incurring two major expenses that have not been covered previously: the mining the balefill, which allows the county to recover soil and compost materials that can be recycled, and adding the transfer station at the Ann Street Landfill. Both are major capital expenses.
Commissioner Marshall Faircloth said the proposed increase appears to be almost 10% across the board.
“My proposal is to cut that in half,” said Faircloth.
Commissioner Glenn Adams agreed with Faircloth and suggested that the fee hike be decreased from $130 to $93.
Grier said the solid waste fee increase would be adjusted to $93 in the next budget draft.
He also is recommending that the county increase its landfill tipping fees to bring it more in line with neighboring counties. Currently, Cumberland County has the lowest tipping fee in the region. The projected increase would produce $254,000 a year.
Other items discussed included funding for nonprofit agencies, including the Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, the Salvation Army for white-flag nights, and the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County.
Chairwoman Toni Stewart said funding for some nonprofit organizations will be voted on at the board’s next meeting. The discussion will include use of American Rescue Plan funds.
Other budget items to be reviewed include the need to update elevators in county buildings and adjusting salary ranges so that all employees receive a cost-of-living pay increase.
As far as the budget process goes, Grier said everything has gone smoothly this year.
“Staff has been great, and everyone has been very collaborative. It’s been an enjoyable process. We want to work to make sure we fund essential services, new initiatives and create functional opportunities for the community,” said Grier after the budget workshop.
The budget meetings will continue with a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 118 of the Cumberland County Courthouse and a work session at 5:30 p.m. June 14 in Room 564 of the courthouse.