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Palm Beach County trash fees to hold steady in 2016-2017

The annual trash-disposal assessment all homeowners in Palm Beach County pay the Solid Waste Authority will stay the same as this year under a proposed 2016-2017 budget.

Palm Beach County commissioners, sitting as the Authority’s governing board, are set to take the first of two votes at their meeting on Wednesday.

This past year, the authority dropped the assessment for a single-family household from $175 to $170; that’s a drop of about 3 percent.

Rates also will be unchanged this year for commercial customers, who saw a 5 percent to 6 percent decrease this past year.

Government entities, such as city halls, have to pay for trash pickup like everyone else, but get a different rate, and theirs would drop $5 a ton under the proposed budget.

Assessments help pay for the county’s landfill, recycling plants and other disposal services. They are levied on all homeowners, including those who live in cities and towns with their own trash collection services.

In addition to paying that fee, homeowners in the county’s unincorporated areas pay a separate annual fee to have their trash collected and hauled away. The unincorporated county is divided into five trash-pickup zones, with annual rates ranging from $143 to $212 this year and $144 to $214 in the proposed budget.

Those collection fees are tied to the consumer price index, causing the $1 to $2 increase in this year’s rates, depending on the zone.

For the budget year that will end Oct. 1, residents will generate $4.25 million more in “tipping fees” than they did the previous year, according to authority projections. Tipping fees are the fees charged to haulers who bring garbage to authority facilities. That’s an increase of nearly 5 percent.

But the authority collected $9.2 million less than the previous year for the sale of electricity generated by its trash-burning plants, a budget memo says. The memo said Florida Power & Light Co. is paying less because it’s able to generate electricity itself more cheaply by using natural gas.

The authority also is collecting about $6 million by selling recycled materials, half of what it had projected, in what the memo said is a constantly volatile recycling market.

The authority says it expects to collect 4.9 percent more in waste, by ton, than this past year. The authority has said prosperity breeds garbage. As people personally recovered from the recession, they created more trash. On top of that, homes that are new or had been vacant during the downturn now are occupied and generating trash, the authority has said.

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