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June 1, 2009 New landfill charges
Plan would make Wisconsin's garbage fees highest in nation, group
By Lee Bergquist of the
Posted: May. 31, 2009
Effect of Proposed Tax Increase
Examples of estimated annual tax increases to municipalities, based on
* *City of Milwaukee: *$2.3 million
* *Mequon:* $17,036 (2,399 tons)
* *Wauwatosa:* $52,650 (14,831 tons) *
* *Cudahy:* $62,278 (8,772 tons)
* *Oak Creek:* $55,131 (7,765 tons)
* *Caledonia:* $46,440 (6,541 tons)
* *Menomonee Falls:* $62,792 (8,844 tons)
* *Mount Pleasant:* $49,726 (7,004 tons)
* *City of Pewaukee:* $32,975 (4,645 tons)
* *City of Oconomowoc:* $34,603 (4,874 tons)
* *City of Waukesha:* $116,306 (16,381 tons)
* *New Berlin:* $60,696 (8,548 tons)
* *Town of Waukesha:* $19,370 (2,728 tons)
* *Greenfield:* $60,960 (8,586 tons)
* *Franklin:* $60,483 (8,519 tons)
* *Muskego:* $49,083 (6,913 tons)
* *Waterford:* $17,566 (2,474 tons)
* *City of Brookfield:* $94,523 (13,313 tons)
* *Hartford:* $25,844 (3,640 tons)
* *Glendale:* $26,964 (3,798 tons)
* *Brown Deer:* $18,878 (2,659 tons)
/*Wauwatosa has a cost-sharing agreement on tipping fee increases with
Source: National Solid Wastes Management Association
Lawmakers' decision to increase landfill charges will heap additional
costs on local units of government, and a trade group says it would
raise the tax to the highest in the nation.
The City of Milwaukee estimated that a recent vote by the
Legislature's Joint Finance Committee to sharply increase the tax on
waste would cost the city an additional $2.3 million a year.
Waukesha would pay an estimated $116,000 more annually, and Brookfield
would spend an additional $94,500, according to estimates supplied by
the National Solid Wastes Management Association.
Smaller communities would also pay higher garbage bills if the measure
passes both houses and is signed by the governor.
The tipping fees will increase the cost of doing business for
landfills, according to the solid waste group, based in Washington,
Based on the group's analysis, the higher tipping fees would make
Wisconsin's landfill tax the highest in the nation, pushing aside West
The tax is added to charges by landfill operators to dump garbage.
The committee's motivation was to find new sources of revenue to
repair the state's budget deficit. In this case, the tax would
generate $63 million, phased in over the next two fiscal years.
Environmentalists have also championed higher charges because the
funds have been used for recycling programs. In recent years, however,
the fees have also been earmarked for other uses.
Environmentalists have also viewed higher fees as a way to discourage
waste haulers from bringing out-of-state waste to Wisconsin
The influential committee recently voted 12-4 to more than double the
tipping fee from $5.90 per ton to $13 per ton.
Gov. Jim Doyle has also viewed garbage fees as a new source of
revenue. But he recommended a smaller increase, to $10.30 per ton.
Once the charges are rolled out over an entire year, the cost of the
new taxes could total nearly $50 million annually, according to the
Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
"I think there is a viewpoint developing in Madison that this is a
painless way to raise money," said Lynn Morgan, a lobbyist and
spokeswoman for Waste Management.
"But for local communities, this is very painful to provide money to
Said Jason Johns, a lobbyist for the National Solid Wastes Management
Association: "State leaders are so desperate for dollars that they're
taxing your garbage, and meanwhile, people in Wisconsin are worried
about putting food on the table."
The new charges would affect garbage from municipalities, hospitals
and schools, but not industrial waste from paper mills, foundries and
"This is the classic example of the underfunded mandate," said Patrick
Curley, chief of staff for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Once the budget is approved, higher tipping fees and anticipated cuts
in shared revenue would mean Milwaukee must increase property taxes,
make cuts elsewhere or furlough employees, Curley said.
"Mayor Barrett doesn't have the intention of throwing this all on the
backs of the property tax payer," he said.
The Joint Finance Committee also shifted funding for recycling.
For Milwaukee, it would mean $300,000 less for programs such as
marketing, said Rick Myers, recycling specialist with the City of
The result: More waste that should be recycled will be dumped in
landfills, he said.
The amount of waste dumped into landfills, subject to tipping fees,
remained relatively constant at 9.2 million tons a year between 2004
and 2007, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
It dropped 9% to 8.4 million tons in 2008, and with the economy
reeling, it's projected to fall to 7 million tons this year.
Illinois waste dumped here
Out-of-state waste has been a significant source of garbage in
Wisconsin's landfills, amounting to one-fifth to one-quarter of waste
subject to tipping fees, DNR figures show.
In 2008, about one-third of 1.7 million tons of out-of-state waste
came from Illinois to three landfills in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth
Another one-third of out-of-state waste originated from Minnesota and
was shipped to landfills in Douglas, Eau Claire and Washburn
That's why the higher fees have a benefit, said one environmentalist.
"Residents are watching their roads being torn up by garbage trucks
from out of state. Seagulls are flying everywhere, and pollution leaks
from landfills," said Anne Sayers, program director for the League of
The league hailed higher fees as an impediment to bringing waste from
Traditionally, the cost of land-filling was lower in Wisconsin than in
many other states.
But setting aside the potentially higher charges, Morgan pointed to
DNR figures showing the Wisconsin's low-cost advantage may have
The average total charges at landfills near the border are the same in
Minnesota - $44 per ton - as Wisconsin, figures show.
In Illinois, the cost is $48 per ton.
City of Milwaukee estimate on what the higher tax on waste would cost
the city each year.
What's the impact in your community?
See the list on *Page 5B*.
EFFECT OF PROPOSED TAX INCREASE
Examples of estimated annual tax increases to municipalities, based on
*Mequon:* $17,036 (2,399 tons)
*Wauwatosa:* $52,650 (14,831 tons) *
*Cudahy:* $62,278 (8,772 tons)
*Oak Creek:* $55,131 (7,765 tons)
*Caledonia:* $46,440 (6,541 tons)
*Menomonee Falls:* $62,792 (8,844 tons)
*Mount Pleasant:* $49,726 (7,004 tons)
*City of Pewaukee:* $32,975 (4,645 tons)
*City of Oconomowoc:* $34,603 (4,874 tons)
*City of Waukesha:* $116,306 (16,381 tons)
*New Berlin:* $60,696 (8,548 tons)
*Town of Waukesha:* $19,370 (2,728 tons)
*Greenfield:* $60,960 (8,586 tons)
*Franklin:* $60,483 (8,519 tons)
*Muskego:* $49,083 (6,913 tons)
*Waterford:* $17,566 (2,474 tons)
*City of Brookfield:* $94,523 (13,313 tons)
*Hartford:* $25,844 (3,640 tons)
*Glendale:* $26,964 (3,798 tons)
*Brown Deer:* $18,878 (2,659 tons)
/*Wauwatosa has a cost-sharing agreement on tipping fee increases with
Source: National Solid Wastes Management Association
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