By Paul Gable
The HCSWA budget is in its final preparations before being included in the overall Horry County Government budget as it is every year.
While the Horry County Solid Waste Authority budget has been included as a section of the county budget since its inception in the early 1990’s, Horry County Council has paid little to no attention to it when approving its annual fiscal year budget.
This year is different. Some council members are actually paying attention to the HCSWA budget.
That is a good thing. It was prompted by the initial request of the HCSWA for an increase in tipping fees at the county Hwy 90 landfill.
Tipping fees are the cost, ultimately paid by the citizens of the county, of burying waste in the ground.
To its credit, the HCSWA has essentially charged the same tipping fee, with some minor variations, since 1992. To its detriment, for many of those years, the tipping fee charged to the citizens of the county was too high.
I remember one former executive director of the HCSWA commenting over a decade ago that so much money (from tipping fees) was coming into the authority coffers, it didn’t know what to do with it all.
A lot of the excess revenue got wasted on purchases of land that was not needed, public relations campaigns, lobbying fees, attorney fees, even bugs that theoretically would extend the life of the landfill, but, in fact, died.
While some of this sounds funny, millions upon millions of public dollars were wasted by a succession of HCSWA boards and the indifference of county council.
Now, the HCSWA is in somewhat of a cash crunch, somewhere between $500k-$1,000k projected shortfall in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.
The first inclination of the HCSWA staff and board was to raise tipping fees. County council said “NO”.
The HCSWA is making monthly reports to the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee with respect to the revenues and expenses associated with the Charleston County recycling contract.
The I&R Committee should expand this oversight to receive a report on overall expenses and revenue at the HCSWA.
If this had been done in years’ past, things like over $1 million paid for lobbying (in a two year span) could have been stopped before it started.
The new, proposed HCSWA budget will be presented to the I&R Committee when it meets Thursday. It is hoped the committee will dig deeply into all of the HCSWA budget numbers rather than just those associated with the Charleston contract.