FICHTEL: PAYT Proponents’ Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole story

Open letter to Greenwich RTM members from Mark Fichtel, Greenwich

PAYT proponents have put out a spreadsheet purporting to show unqualified financial superiority of PAYT vs. a tipping fee.  However, that analysis does not tell the whole story because it only shows the financial benefits to the Town of Greenwich, but – very importantly – it omits to show the cost to Greenwich residents.

1. Let’s start with the numbers if we were to continue to pay for our municipal solid waste (MSW) and recyclables through our real estate taxes.  The expense of moving MSW and recyclables from Holly Hill (and the related administrative costs) would cost residents an estimated $6,524,000 this year in taxes.

2. The PAYT spreadsheet postulates a 36% cut in MSW (ignoring that Greenwich residents cut their MSW by about 20% in 2012 when single stream recycling began and currently recycle 40%+ of their trash, among the highest in CT).  It also shows a 40% rise in recyclables.  Incredibly, it also shows that almost 7,700 tons of waste disappears, which WasteZero has said will be from composting, textile recycling, etc., though no such programs exist, nor is it clear how they will function or what they might cost.

3. With a 36% cut in MSW, PAYT will cost residents $5,736,000 in direct costs and taxes; a $112/MSW ton tipping fee will cost $5,268,000 (with no drop in MSW and haulers’ passing on only 2/3rd of the tipping fee).  Tipping fees will cost $833,000 less and are a better choice.

4. If MSW drops only 20%, PAYT will cost $6,586,000; a $112/MSW ton tipping fee will still cost $5,268,000.  Tipping fees will cost $1,518,000 less and are a much better choice.

5. If there were no change in MSW or recycling with PAYT, the cost of PAYT for residents would be $7,628,000; that for a tipping fee would still be $5,268,000.  Thus, PAYT’s cost to residents would be $2,360,000 more than tipping fees.  No comment is needed.

6. Finally, a word about the hauler-paid full-page, “Just Say No to Tip Fees” advertisement in the May 3 Greenwich Time.  The piece properly notes that: a) the proposed permit fee of $25 is severely underpriced and not fair to other residents, and b) we should be as aggressive as possible about putting our Holly Hill disposal contract out for bid.

7. That said, there are numerous points that are incorrect, misleading, or mis-stated:  a) haulers in other towns have paid a tipping fee for years and generally have monthly rates lower than in Greenwich; b) haulers who raise their rates to cover 100% of the tipping fee will lose business because the new monthly rates will be widely disseminated so hauler customers can shop for the best price if they wish, and also because competitors will raise their rates minimally or not at all in order to gain customers; c) no one has said a tipping fee will mean a decline in taxes; d) it is because Covid-19 has created a severe budget revenue shortfall at the same time we have to start paying for recyclables that a tipping fee is needed; and e) the assertion that a tipping fee will generate a “profit” to the town is false because the tipping fee will only cover 55% of our total waste costs.