Len Bernard, the East Hampton Town budget officer, presented the new town board at its very first work session on Tuesday with an issue that must be resolved quickly.
The 2014 budget, adopted in November, relies for operation of the Sanitation Department on an increase in fees for use of the recycling and garbage transfer centers, and, he said, about $300,000 has to be raised to make the budget balance.
The hikes outlined by Mr. Bernardwould see the cost of a household dump sticker rise from $100 to $115, and a secondary sticker, issued for a second car in the same household, go from $15 to $40. That fee has not been increased since 2008, Mr. Bernard told the board.
Other proposed increases include a small hike in the cost of stickers for senior citizens, from $50 to $55. The cost of dropping off construction debris would go from $140 per ton to $150, and of dumping brush, from $100 to $115 a ton.
“I think the fee increases are reasonable, I think they’re balanced . . . I don’t think you’re going to find much objection from the public,” said Mr. Bernard.
For vehicles without dump stickers, it now costs $10 for a single drop-off at the recycling center. Doubling the entry fee would generate over $100,000 in needed revenue, the budget officer said.
The suggestion caused some concern among board members, however. “What I’m concerned about is what the additional cost is going to be for us to pick up the additional garbage that’s going to be left around town,” said Councilman Fred Overton.
“It will be an additional burden on enforcement,” Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc predicted.
“I think there’s an education process that’s going to need to come about, that we haven’t done in a while, about the recyclables,” said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby. The town makes money selling some recyclables, such as cardboard and plastics.
“We’re going to have to launch a campaign increasing the rate of recycling in East Hampton . . . because it’s good for the environment and it lowers our costs,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “I think our recycling rate is low.”
He also suggested the town reopen areas at the recycling centers where residents can drop off reusable items.
Mr. Bernard said that in order to balance the sanitation budget without raising taxes — a key concern, especially under the state-imposed 2-percent cap on tax increases — some surplus monies had been allocated to Sanitation in 2012 and 2013. That practice is unsustainable, he advised. Fees must be increased to cover expenses, both for the sanitation budget and as a general practice.
The board could address the “broader issues,” such as “litter and recycling and the operations of the Sanitation Department,” later, said Mr. Cantwell, but the recycling fees must be dealt with immediately, because this year’s “budget has anticipated an increase in revenue.” No decisions were made this week.