Penticton landfill costs reach the tipping point

Regional district board told a tax should be considered to subsidize the Campbell Mountain Landfill

Local politicians were told Thursday they should consider a new tax to subsidize the Campbell Mountain Landfill and help offset a growing operating deficit.

In his third-quarter update, Warren Everton, finance manager of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, told the board the landfill is projected to come in $250,000 over budget this year.

He said tipping fees collected through the first nine months of 2012 totalled just 45 per cent of the $2.4 million indicated in budget projections, and are only expected to hit 68 per cent by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the cost of providing recycling services has increased faster than the revenue it generates and has become a major drain on landfill finances.

“It’s a bit of a worry,” Everton said.

He said the shortfall can be covered by increasing the draw on the landfill’s operating reserve fund from $200,000 to $400,000, although that will clean out that account.

The RDOS operates the landfill, which is just outside Penticton, and primarily serves the city and Areas D, E and F. Everton said directors should consider a special landfill levy for those areas only.

John Vassilaki, a Penticton city councillor who also sits on the RDOS board, said people should be charged a minimal amount for dropping off materials like yard waste and metal. Such items are not currently subject to tipping fees for loads under 500 kilograms.

“Why don’t we charge for these? They’re using the service up there,” Vassilaki said.

“It’s not going to be all that much out of everybody’s pocket.”

Penticton Mayor and RDOS board chair Dan Ashton warned, however, that if tipping fees get too high, so does the incentive for people to dump their unwanted material where it’s not wanted.

“Unfortunately, it ends up in the bush somewhere else,” Ashton said.

Rather than a tax, he continued, the RDOS should try to attack costs at the landfill.

“We should take a look at our usage and take a look at our operations and see if we can make it even sharper,” Ashton said.

The highest cost associated with the landfill is the operations contract the RDOS has with SSG Holdings to run the site, an expense projected to reach $636,000 this year. RDOS staffing costs at Campbell Mountain are budgeted at $493,00 for the year.