Garbage Fees and Service for Unincorporated Residents

By Chris Hutchings July 27, 2012
County Administrator/Clerk

A garbage fee of $11/month will be added to the property tax bills on the house or mobile home in unincorporated Washington County. The fee is being prorated in 2012 and will be $96. It will be $132 in 2013 (12 months x $11/month). The fee is necessary to pay for the present dumpster system and a new collection center to be placed on Kaolin Road.

Below are Frequently Asked Questions concerning this fee and the services it pays for:

What changes to the garbage system have been implemented?

The commissioners are planning to keep the 31 present dumpster sites located around the county for unincorporated residents to use. One manned collection center will be constructed on Kaolin Road to allow unincorporated residents to dump non-household garbage. This collection center will also serve as a recycle center for unincorporated residents.

A part-time code enforcement officer will patrol the dumpster sites and to enforce garbage and other county ordinances. A garbage fee of $132 per residence ($11/month) will be added to the property tax bill to pay for garbage collection and disposal services for households in unincorporated areas of Washington County. The fee is prorated from the date of passage in 2012 and will be $96 per residence.

The commissioners are no longer considering a door-to-door garbage pickup system.

Why does a fee have to be charged?

It costs about $682,000 per year to maintain the 31 dumpster sites and dispose of county garbage. In the past, taxes were used to pay for this. Since 2009, the County has experienced a decline in many of its revenues. Local Option Sales Taxes alone have declined over $400,000 per year. SPLOST has declined about $800,000 per year. Most other revenues (fees, fines and other taxes) have declined. The garbage expenses cannot be covered any longer from these revenues. Many County expenditures and services have been cut for the past three years but the garbage expenses can no longer be covered with tax revenues.

Why are fees being charged to only the residents of unincorporated areas of the County?

Citizens in the cities of Sandersville, Tennille, Davisboro and Harrison already have a weekly garbage service and these residents pay this fee directly to their cities. Citizens in Deepstep, Riddleville and Oconee use the County dumpster system and collection center because these three cities reimburse the County. Therefore, only the unincorporated residences will have the garbage fee.

How can the County keep the people from the cities in Washington County from using these dumpsters?

The same question also applies to out-of-county residents. Deputies and a code enforcement officer will patrol these sites. They are responsible for code enforcement including illegal dumping. We do know that illegal dumping goes on at the sites (tires, furniture, tree limbs, etc.) and also that non-Washington County residents dump at these sites. We need to stop illegal dumping at these sites for both residents and non-residents through better Code Enforcement of these sites.

The County Commissioners asks that every citizen report illegal dumping at these dumpster sites to the Washington County Sheriff’s office or to Washington County Road Department for investigation.

Isn’t this “fee” really just a “tax” in disguise?

No. It is a user fee. Georgia law allows Counties to charge user fees based on the costs of services provided. The services provided are dumpster sites and a Collection Center. This fee will be charged to every household in the unincorporated area of the county.

Why is it $11.00 per month?

The cost of the garbage service is slightly more than $11/month. There are 5,000 households in unincorporated Washington County. This fee will raise $660,000 per year to cover most all the costs of the dumpsters.

Why don’t businesses pay the fee?

The dumpster sites are for household garbage only. It is a violation of county ordinances for businesses to use the dumpsters. Businesses must make their own arrangements for garbage collection or use the County Landfill.

Can I pay this fee by the month instead of when I pay property taxes?

No. The county does not have any billing system in place to send a bill to 5,000 households each month or quarter. Putting this fee on the tax bill keeps the administrative costs low for County residents. We researched having Washington EMC bill on behalf of the County and researched other ways to do monthly billing, but this was not feasible.

What happens if I don’t pay the garbage fee?

A partial payment of the tax bill will be prorated to both property taxes and to the fee. Also, garbage fees not paid can have liens taken against them by the Tax Commissioner.

Is there any way to reduce or not pay the fee?

Yes. Upon appeal to the Tax Assessors Office, partial or full year credits will be given upon proof of one of the three situations below:

  1. The house or mobile home is not occupied. You can prove this by presenting your utility bill to prove that little or no electricity is being used.
  2. The house or mobile home is damaged by an “Act of God” or fire and you have to move out.
  3. You have an alternate weekly pickup service provided by a licensed, garbage collector. You can find out who the qualified, licensed collectors are on the Georgia Environmental Protection Division website:

http://www.gaepd.org/Documents/lpb_solidwaste.html#swpermfac

Also, the fee will be reduced by 50% to non-rental residences such as deer camps, weekend cabins and guest houses.

Who Can Use the Collection Center and what are the Fees?

Any citizen for whom the Garbage Fee is paid may use the Collection Center for no additional fee. Citizens that do not pay the County garbage fee cannot use the Collection Center. Citizens of Deepstep, Oconee, and Riddleville also may use the collection center because these cities use the County dumpster system and the cities reimburse the County for their cost.

Waste accepted:

  • Non-commercial limbs and yard waste (pick up or small trailer)
  • Construction and demolition from individuals. Prohibited items includes such things as free liquids, chemicals, asbestos (pick up or small trailer)
  • Appliances and metal
  • Brown goods (furniture and bedding)
  • Recyclables
  • Tires (fee will be charged)