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SWMA grapples with potential budget shortfall
County - LOCAL

COVINGTON, Ga. – Newton County Solid Waste Manager Kevin Walter briefed members of the county’s Solid Waste Management Authority at Wednesday’s meeting on the potential for an $850,000 budget shortfall this year.

Walter had told members in October that early budget projections were not being reached, citing less than expected income from waste coming across the scale at the landfill and fewer than projected convenience center hang tags being sold.

Walter said he reduced budget projections for income from across the scale from an original amount of $3.3 million to $2.7 million.

“I feel confident across the scale we will get $2.7 million and perhaps more, depending on the volume of non-convenience center waste,” he said.

“For the hang tags, we had originally budgeted that we would sell 10,000 hang tags,” he said, “To date we have sold 5,500 hang tags. My estimate to you last month was that throughout this entire year we would only sell 7,000 hang tags.”

The sale of 10,000 hang tags at $144 each would have generated just under $1.5 million. The 5,500 tags sold so far have generated $792,000.

 After proposed cuts in expenses, Walter said there was a shortfall.

“There was a shortfall of approximately $500,000 of expenses over income,” he said.

Walter said interest on the Authority’s recently issued bonds was included in the budget changes.

“In the proposed changes, we did include interest on the bonds, which is about a half-million dollars,” he said, “It has to come out of the budget.”

Walter said principle on the bonds accounts for an additional $350,000.

“To totally meet our expenses, including the interest on the bonds and the principle this year, we are perhaps $850,000 under where we would like to be,” he said.

Walter suggested ways of making up the shortfall to be discussed could include possible fee increases, finding other sources of waste for the landfill, further reductions in expenses and seeking assistance from the Board of Commissioners.

“This year, for the Fiscal 2018 budget, I requested $750,000 from the general fund. In the previous year, 2017, we received $1.25 million of support from the general fund,” he said, “This year I requested $750,000 and what was granted was $147,000, so that could be used by the Authority to seek assistance from the Board of Commissioners.

“I would recommend not waiting until the end of the fiscal year. I would recommend that it be done as soon as possible.”

Walter also proposed an option changing the policy of letting citizens with full service hang tags use the landfill free.

“We’re losing $100,000 to $200,000 a year because of the policy of allowing people with the hang tags come to the landfill with any amount of material and not pay. I would recommend to the Authority a change in that policy.”

Member Linda Hanna asked about committee to look work on the landfill budget.

“If the budget is the lynchpin for making sure we dig the Solid Waste Authority out of its hole,” she said, “I don’t know if it’s appropriate to suggest perhaps a sub-committee to work with Kevin to get this budget straightened out sooner rather than later.

“I think it’s incumbent on us as a Board to get this budget straightened out, to get it balanced.”

Hanna and member Buddy Morgan agreed to work with Walter to work on the budget.

Walter told The Covington News that he, Hanna and Morgan will be meeting to discuss the answers to deal with the shortfall over the next four weeks before the Authority’s Dec.13 meeting.

“At that meeting,” he said, “I will present a suggested program to balance the income and expenses for the rest of the year.”

In a Friday morning interview, Walter said his original balanced budget included $3.074 million in income from waste crossing the scale at the landfill. He said he had lowered that projection to $2.632 million. While he is confident in that number, he said he will have a clearer picture of the budget picture by Dec. 31.

“We’ll be halfway through the year, “he said, “If we’re at $1.5 million, the budget was not that far off.”