Increased fees proposed for Seeley Lake Refuse District
August 5, 2021
SEELEY LAKE – On July 29, the Missoula County Commissioners held a budget hearing to consider rate increases for the Seeley Lake Refuse District fiscal year 2022 . The annual assessment would increase $30 to $180 as well as other increases in out-of-district and specialty item fees. The final budget for the District will be approved on Aug. 26 during the Commissioners’ meeting at 2 p.m.
During the meeting, Missoula County Budget Analyst Amanda Henthorne gave a presentation regarding the Seeley Lake Refuse District and the need to increase revenue.
The Seeley Lake Refuse District was created in 1974. It was formed to address improper storage, collection and disposal of refuse in the area. It is located on Woodworth Road.
Prior to July 2005, the Seeley Lake refuse District functioned as an independent unit of Missoula County. In October 2009, the District formally became a division of the Missoula County Public Works Department. In May of 2011, due to changes in Montana law, the Commissioners assumed governance of the District. In December 2015, Missoula County contracted Republic Services to manage daily onsite operations under an annual agreement and to haul the trash to the Missoula Landfill for final disposal.
The District is fee-based and the rates have not changed since 2011.
Those that live within the District currently pay $150 per year per lot, tract or parcel of record. For this fee, each taxpayer is allotted 10 cubic yards (compacted) of trash to be dumped at the Transfer Site. One 32-gallon trash bag is 1/8 of a cubic yard. This equates to a total of 2,500 gallons of household trash per year per property.
Volumes in excess of 10 cubic yards are charged at a rate of $15 per cubic yard. Construction materials, yard debris, tires, sofas and other furniture, mattresses and appliances are charged separate fees according to specialty fee schedules.
Out of District fees apply to anyone that lives outside the District. Current fees include $3 per 32-gallon bag or can or $15 per cubic yard of household refuse.
Missoula County proposed an increase to $180 per year per property of record. Out of District fees would also increase to $4 per 32-gallon bag or $18 per cubic yard. Other fees for specialty items will increase slightly.
“The budget revenues were updated to reflect the sustained trend of increased use based on the past three years, with a minimal fee increase also included,” Henthorne wrote in an email. “By carefully considering revenue trends over time, the data that’s been used for these fee increases indicates a sustained upward trend that is now reflected in the budget rather than a one-time change in circumstances.”
When analyzing the budget over the past three years, Henthorne explained that from 2019 onward there has been growth in the amount of refuse received that has necessitated increasing expenditure budgets. Rather than immediately raise District rates, County staff tracked these changes over time to see if there was a trend. In the interim, the District used its cash savings to cover planned expenditures and infrequent purchases to maintain equipment and upgrade infrastructure.
Henthorne wrote in fiscal year (FY) 2019, the District received $327,836 in total revenue with $317,532 expenses. The surplus of just over $10,000 was put into savings.
In FY 2020, the District received $314,366 and $339,433 was spent. Henthorne explained higher refuse volumes and the annual contractual increase of 4% with Republic Services impacted the increase in expenditures. While the District operated at a loss, the District’s cash savings covered the loss.
In FY 2021, the District received $352,045. Henthorne said the significant jump was driven by increased volumes from out-of-district and site fees for items not within the standard district fees. Fee rates were not increased. Total expenditures for fiscal year 2021 were $358,389. While this was below budget, the District still operated at a loss.
“Based on the review of those trends over time and the operational knowledge of Public Works staff, the fiscal year 2022 budget needed adjustment,” Henthorne wrote. “Thus, charges for services were increased primarily because of increased use but also because a fee increase was prudent given the District had operated at an actual loss and not just a potential budgeted loss for at least the last two years. Expenditures have increased because of the higher volumes and the contractual increase with Republic Services.”
During the public hearing, Henthorne explained the request for the increase is driven by the 14% increase in collection for the District, the annual contractual increase of 4% with Republic Services and the need for funds to replace equipment and update infrastructure. The District had to use its savings to purchase a new backhoe after the 20-year-old backhoe required significant repairs and had several breakdowns. The fee increase will allow the District to establish a replacement fund for future replacements for equipment, fencing or other items needed. In the proposed budget, $11,000 is allocated to be transferred from the District’s operating budget to the capital reserve account.
“Breakdowns and damage can be hard to anticipate,” Henthorne wrote. “Establishing this pool of savings helps make unexpected events easier for the District to absorb without having to increase fees in response.”
If approved at the Aug. 26 meeting, District residents would see the increase on their October tax bill. Out-of-district users and fees on specialty items would increase Sept. 1. For the current and proposed fee schedule visit https://www.seeleylake.com/home/customer_files/article_documents/refusefeeschedules.pdf
Comments on the proposed fee increase can be sent to email@example.com or made in person or via Microsoft Teams during the Aug. 26 hearing. For more information about the proposed fee increases for the Seeley Lake Refuse District or how to attend the hearing please visit https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/special-districts.