NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Town Board on Tuesday is expected to consider a resolution that would increase user fees at the town’s recycling and transfer center.
Board members discussed the possible increases Wednesday, during a special meeting of the board’s Finance Committee.
Possible increases at the River Road transfer center include a $5 increase — to $65 — for the annual permit fee. The three-day permit would increase $10 to $40. And the 0 to 15 pound rate for paper would increase 25 cents to 75 cents.
The increases are on the table because of operational changes.
One change involves single-stream recyclables, hauled by the town to Schenectady County’s waste transfer station. This year, the tonnage fee charged by hauler County Waste has increased from $2 per ton to $75 per ton.
Another change involves hauler T.A. Predel and Co.
Senior Civil Engineer Josh Hawley said Predel had been hauling scrap metal and paper — including junk mail, newspapers, shredded paper and cardboard containers. Predel paid the town the current market rate, minus a hauling fee for the discarded metal and paper.
Predel — and other haulers — have experienced changes in the market. China, the world’s largest scrap importer, no longer accepts recycled plastic and unsorted scrap paper from abroad. Hawley said the company will have to charge $400 for each large container of scrap paper.
“It is proposed to include paper products with the single-stream recycling at the transfer station,” read a report prepared by Hawley and distributed at the committee meeting. “The inclusion of paper products is estimated to increase the yearly disposal fees at the transfer station by $8,100.
“This option is cheaper than continuing to have Predel haul paper,” the report added.
Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed said possible transfer station increases did not come as a surprise.
“We had considered it, we kind of figured it would be something that would come up but we wanted to wait until we actually got into fiscal year 2019 before we addressed it,” Syed said, “And everything we thought was going to happen is happening.”
Syed said possible fee increases are the result of different factors. “None of which we can control, unfortunately,” she said. “It all stems from the fact that America has a trash problem and until we figure out what we’re really going to be doing with our recyclables and our trash, this is one of the outcomes. We have nowhere to put it and we’re staring in the face of ever-increasing costs.”
Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw said she never likes fee increases.
“We try to avoid them as best we can,” she said. “This transfer station has become increasingly more expensive to run for a variety of reasons, whether they’re to get rid of the recycled materials or the personnel costs associated with it.
“We have to help ensure the transfer station can remain open for the residents who find it a valuable service,” McGraw added.
In 2018, the town issued 380 annual permits and 106 three-day permits.
The board’s Tuesday meeting begins at 7 p.m.
In other discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, officials further examined the design of a fund balance policy.
A vote on this policy, once considered for Tuesday, will be delayed. Council members asked Comptroller Paul Sebesta for a trend line that will show town finances for the past 10 years and projections for the next five.
“My recommendation is this needs a lot of thought,” Sebesta said. “You really need to understand what the ramifications are.”
Sebesta later gave an example, using a fund balance figure of 25 percent: Using simple numbers, he said a town budget could be $1 million, with retained earnings exceeding $250,000.
“Say it’s $300,000,” he said. “We would be required to take $50,000 and set it aside for some special purpose. It just can’t stay in an unassigned status.”
Sebesta also said there is time for both the trend line research and fund balance policy design.
“There is no real push into anything because we’re not going to the market for long-term debt, which is one of the reasons to have a fund balance policy,” he said during the meeting. “Financial analysts like to see this, it’s a comfort level with them.
“It would impact the next year’s budget process,” Sebesta added. “We have until August, September, so there’s really no push. I think you need more information, more time.”
Board members can wait.
“I think this is a work in progress,” McGraw said. “It was an item that was raised during the budgeting process when there was a significant increase in use of fund balance to balance this budget. The board members wanted to know how this would impact our bond rating. One of the answers we got was we probably should have a fund balance policy.”
Councilman John Della Ratta said he believes it is “crucial” to get the fund balance policy in place.
“This was the big debate we had on our last budget,” he said. “We wanted to spend $600,000 out of these monies we had accrued not knowing what the negative impact was going to be, not knowing what the negative impact on the bond rating might be, not knowing how this would set us up for future budgets if we had some type of shortfall.”
Syed also understands the realization of a fund balance policy will take some time.
“I’m happy we’re even talking about it,” she said.