The dull brown, often scarred containers lining roadsides near driveways in areas of Lee County outside Tupelo on one of four days every week means Lee County Solid Waste will pick up and haul away nonhazardous garbage that day, a routine that’s reliable, familiar and necessary.
Soon, after required legal notices are published, that service will cost 39.5 percent more per month for residents and 10 percent more for commercial accounts, the second increase in rates since the house-to-house service was started by the county in 1994.
Residential rates will rise from $9 to $12.50 per month, and commercial rates, based on volume and frequency of service, will rise 10 percent. Residential pickup is once weekly countywide except in Tupelo, which has its own contracted waste hauler.
The increase, while substantial at 39.5 percent, is only the second rate raise since the service started in 1994, when the fee was $7.50 per month. That was increased to $9 in 2005, and to $12.50 by a 4-1 vote on Monday.
Supervisors and County Administrator Sean Thompson said the increase will sustain the service without requiring the county to use its reserve funds, a practice frowned on for operating budgets, Thompson said.
Thompson also said $1 million in delinquent payments become problematic because state law does not allow the leverage of liens placed on property or the sale of property, as in the case of delinquent taxes.
Lee County’s increase, which will not become effective until after a state-required series of legal notices run in the Daily Journal, still will keep costs within the range of many other Northeast Mississippi counties, some with slightly higher costs.
Garbage pick-up, while environmentally necessary, is not an entitlement funded from recurring appropriations. It is a service requiring fees, which many people believe are taxes by another name. When fees don’t cover expenses the usual alternative is to increase the fee paid by users – property owners, residents or others who create the waste stream that has to be hauled away.
Lee County’s Board of Supervisors could have increased fees more frequently, but the bottom line is the same. Most residents will pay more on time and in full, and in so doing keep the service as an operating expense without dipping into reserves.