Residents of Hays will pay 10% more starting in October to have their trash and recycling hauled to the landfill by the city’s trash trucks.

It’s the first such increase in 13 years, with 2006 the last time monthly collection fees were bumped up.

Residents pay $15.20 a month now. That will go up to $16.72 starting with the first billing cycle in October.

Public Works director Jesse Rohr told the Hays City Commission on Thursday that the amount is 1% lower than the rate increase to $17.48 the city was considering in July.

“Since that time the county commission has lowered the tipping fee for bulk rate customers,” Rohr said, “and as of September we are now paying $72 a ton rather than $75 a ton.”

Hays is the largest customer of the Ellis County landfill. In 2018, city trucks brought in 5,147 tons, which is 43% or a little less than half of the total tonnage of the municipal household waste delivered to the landfill, according to the county.

“As with anything, expenses have increased over the last 10-plus years, and that comes from a variety of reasons,” Rohr told the Hays commissioners, citing costs ranging from fuel to equipment. 

In 2018, the city collected $1.32 million in revenue and had $1.456 million in expenses.

In 2019, the estimate is $1.4 million revenue and $1.464 expenses.

At the 2006 rate, revenue in 2020 is estimated at $1.47 million and expenses at $1.525 million.

“Aside from expenses, our revenues on the recycling side have declined,” Rohr said, noting that the decline equates to about 68 cents a customer per month, or $8 a year, which Rohr described as significant.

“Staff are not recommending cutting any services that we currently provide,” Rohr said.

Previously the city was looking at switching from Ellis County landfill services to a private hauler as a way to save money, but city manager Toby Dougherty told the city commissioners Thursday that option is no longer feasible for cost cutting.

“Before, we were considering a private option, and we had obtained a quote from that person, and that quote we talked about in July was $65 a ton,” Dougherty said. “Well, after the meeting in July, after the county commission meeting, when Jesse went back to the private hauler to firm up the quote, that price had raised to $69 a ton, so therefore the gap we had talked about in July doesn’t exist.”

Commission chairman Henry Schwaller IV asked Rohr the timeline for replacing equipment.

“There’s various equipment that gets replaced every year,” Rohr replied. “We’ve already purchased this year the three automated trucks. We have new recycling trucks. A lot of things coming up, I think in 2021 we have a skid steer replacement. We have a baler coming up in 2022 or so, it’s actually in really good shape right now, so we’ve actually been pushing that back, it’s in really good condition. We’re in pretty good shape equipment-wise.”

A large purchase is slated after that, Dougherty said.

“2027 is when the automated trucks the commissioners just authorized the purchase of,” he said. “That’s the $850,000 and you can see the reserves go down to $131,000 at that time so we can pay cash.”

Generally the city projects a 2% increase in expenditures each year, Rohr said.

“With no increases over the last 10 years, this is palatable,” said Commissioner Sandy Jacobs. “Nobody likes to do it, nobody’s gonna love that 10%, but having not done it for the last 10 years, I can certainly live with this.”

The city stretched out the current fees for 12 years, said Commissioner Ron Mellick.

“Maybe we were slow in bringing this about, and we should have done smaller increases over this past 12 years so that we didn’t have to do the 10%,” Mellick said. “But everything is costing more.”

The county’s tipping fee reduction allowed a better solution, Jacobs said.

“I want to let the county know that’s appreciated,” she said. “It makes a big difference.”

Schwaller agreed when he put forward the motion for the increase.

“Appreciate the county,” he said.

The city’s recycling program started in 1995. In 2007 the city started automated collection.

Fees cover refuse and alley clinic, recycling and the compost program.

“The recycling situation may get better, or may get worse,” Schwaller noted. “It’s a problem we’re going to have to address at some point.”

The new rates will be $16.72 starting October 2019; $18.22 in January 2021; $19.14 in January 2022; $19.52 in January 2023; and $19.91 in January 2024.

The county’s bulk discount for the city and others started in September for any hauler bringing in more than 300 tons a month of municipal waste. That rate continues for 16 months through 2020, then increases in 2021 by $1 to $73 a ton, and in 2022 to $74 a ton.

Since 1994, county trash has been trucked by a third-party private hauler to Garden City for disposal there. Construction and demolition materials are still buried at the county landfill. The landfill operates at a profit without taxpayer funding.

At the new rate, figuring an average of 5,100 tons, that’s an annual cost savings to Hays of $15,000, according to Ellis County Public Works director Bill Ring.

Some figures in this article were updated and corrected from the original story.