Sleepy Hollow's Sanitation Budget Shortfall Calls for Volume Based Priciing

The "sanitation" fees paid by Sleepy Hollow home owners and businesses are supposed to cover the costs of handling our trash and recycling. But the fees actually come up short around $200,000 every year. To make up the difference, the Village transfers about $200,000 (roughly 1.5%) of our property taxes to the sanitation budget.

This means we need to either be charged more for garbage collection or be encouraged to junk less stuff. Or, better yet, do both by billing owners for how much they throw out. Just like how the County charges the Village for each ton of garbage it dumps.

Oddly, the Village's current rate structure does the opposite. A single family home pays $45 every three months, while a two family pays $50, a three family $75 and a four family $105. Regular commercial establishments have it worse, paying $275 per quarter, regardless of how little they dispose of. But restaurants, which tend to generate large trash volumes, only pay $365.

Our current government policy says "Throw out as much stuff as you want. No problem!" But it is a problem, for our budget and our environment.

Right now is the perfect time to fix this policy. The Village is buying a new sanitation truck. It will have an "automated" side arm for picking up garbage cans. The mechanized pickup requires sturdier cans, which the Village will provide.

The DPW wants to get 95 gallon cans for everyone. Those _huge_ cans would encourage people to throw away even _more_ stuff. So everyone would have to pay higher "tipping fees" to the County and larger costs for collection and trucking.

The fairest thing to do is let everyone choose the garbage can size appropriate for their needs. Smaller cans pay a smaller fee and larger cans pay a larger fee. When people have extra items to throw out, they can purchase tags from vending machines. Potential locations for such machines could be Village Hall and the train station. The "friction" of having to obtain and pay for discarding excess materials encourages people to consider selling or donating usable items.

The industry calls this "Pay As You Throw" (PAYT). Though it'd probably be better named "Save As You Recycle." 42% of municipalities in New York use such pricing models. Variable rate systems reduce garbage tonnage by an average of 17%. Better yet, these arrangemetns are very popular in communities that have implemented them, where over 90% of people are glad the changes were made.

While these adjustments will be awkward for the Village, residents and shop owners alike, the long term financial and environmental benefits are worth the investment.

References / further reading:

More Sleepy Hollow information is available on the web, @DanielConvissor and #SleepyHollowNY