Collecting yard waste for six months each year is an expensive endeavor for Rotterdam’s Highway Department.
Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the cost ranges between $1 million and $1.5 million a year — or slightly less than 5 percent of the town’s $20.1 million budget in 2012. Most of that cost is associated with the roughly 18 workers who dedicate time toward hauling away lawn clippings, leaves and assorted brush.
“I was a little astounded by the cost,” he said Tuesday.
The service is one town residents count on for half the year. But Buffardi wonders if they would feel the same if they understood how expensive the service is and how it affects their annual tax bills.
“It’s almost a sacred cow in Rotterdam to have your leaves and brush picked up in front of your house,” he said. “What we haven’t told people is what it costs.”
The discussion about the service started as the town braces for yet another difficult budget year. With the budget increase obligated to stay within the state’s 2 percent tax cap, Buffardi is considering a proposal to charge residents a fee.
“It’s certainly going to be on the table,” he said. “This is one of those things we’re looking at.”
Buffardi said discussions about the service are in their infancy and nothing has been decided.
“No one is suggesting a fee at all other than [the service] needs to be paid for in some way,” he said.
In Niskayuna, residents are charged a flat rate of $30 per year for a weekly pickup of lawn clippings and small brush. Supervisor Joe Landry said the town also does an annual loose leaf pickup at no extra charge and those homeowners who want to opt out of the weekly pickup are not charged.
“It doesn’t pay for all of it,” he said of the fee, which has existed for years. “But it helps with the cost.”
Buffardi has asked all Rotterdam departments to cut “non-personnel related” spending by 10 percent in their proposals for the 2013 budget. He said the town isn’t bracing for any layoffs, but could shed some positions through attrition.
The town may also enter into a shared-service agreement to split the use of Schenectady County’s compost facility on Hetcheltown Road. Town and county officials have applied for a state grant that would allow for the purchase of a packer truck to bring mulch material to the county facility.
Buffardi said the town could shed one position through retirement if the grant comes through. Also, he said taxpayers could avoid the $750,000 anticipated replacement cost of the grinder now being used at the town’s compost facility off Princetown Road.
Buffardi said he’s trying to estimate expenses in a “systematic an pragmatic way” so the town can avoid cuts to services or the workforce. His preliminary budget is expected to be submitted in late September.
“At this point, we’re starting to count paper clips,” he said.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: