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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Expensive Fuel Trashes MUA Waste Budgets

By Jack Fichter

SWAINTON – The county MUA’s wastewater and solid waste programs are over budget. Translation: Expenses are exceeding receipts.
That’s bad if you operate a business, but it’s not necessarily bad for the MUA or, more im-portantly, for its customers. No increases in user fees are expected.
Commissioners learned this month that increases in the cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, elec-tricity, and natural gas will add another $560,000 to the cost of operating the wastewater program.
A memo from Chief Financial Officer Robert P. Donato said he expects gasoline and diesel fuel expenses to increase the budgeted amount by 65 percent, electricity and natural gas by 26 percent.
Some $210,000 of that deficit will be saved in “other expense areas,” said the memo. And that includes “lower expenses due in good part to the fact we haven’t spent money al-located for employe pay increases,” conceded MUA Deputy Director Charles Norkis to this newspaper Oct. 12.
MUA union employes have been without a contract since Jan.1 and, until there is one and retroactive paychecks are cut, the money set aside for that is available.
Of the remaining $350,000, the MUA expects to be able to make up $50,000 from in-creased interest on investments and to take $300,000 from a Rate Stabilization Fund no one wants to call a surplus.
The solid waste program budget problems are more complicated.
Those anticipated increases in expenses total $706,883 and result from a jump in ton-nage, “primarily” due to the ongoing increase in construction and demolition waste, accord-ing to a memo by Business Services Supervisor Pamela J. Humphries,
The “C and D” results from the continuing boom in teardowns and new construction.
The largest reason for increased solid waste costs is the Host Community Benefits pro-gram, which pays Woodbine and Upper Township $2.48 a ton for “hosting” the MUA land-fill. They’ll split an additional $326,950 as a result of the increased tonnage.
Each had been budgeted $460,653, according to Norkis. The increase amounts to 35 per-cent.
Middle Township also receives a $1.64-per-ton host community benefit for the transfer station, but that has scarcely been affected.
The MUA will make up some $641,883 of the solid waste operations deficit from the in-crease in tipping fees collected for increased tonnage and $65,000 from an unanticipated grant.
But one can be sure that buried someplace in those accounts is the budgeted payroll in-crease that remains on hold.
Contact Zelnik at Jzelnik@cmcherald.com

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