Sitka is spending a lot more than expected to get rid of its trash.
The reason? Officials didn’t put enough money into their spending plans.
“I’m not going to give you any lame excuse tonight. This was a budgeting miss,” said Jay Sweeney, Sitka’s chief financial and administrative officer, at Tuesday’s assembly meeting.
“A number of eyes looked at this. But ultimately, my eyes were the last ones to look at it. And it was missed,” he said.
Officials said they didn’t plan to ask for a customer rate increase to fill the gap during this budget year. Fees went up 21 percent in 2016.
The additional expense is part of a recent solid waste contract with the trash-disposal company Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, known as APES.
Like the old contract, the newer one covers the recycling center, garbage collection, transfers to shipping containers and barging trash to a Lower-48 landfill.
But it boosts several charges, especially at the transfer station. That adds up to around 20 percent more than what’s in the budget.
Mayor Matthew Hunter said Sitka didn’t really have a choice.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t have a lower bidder, but we only had two who wanted to come to our small island community and take our small amount of trash,” he said.
And the other bidder would have charged significantly more.
The municipality did raise trash pickup rates and other fees. That’s significantly reducing the gap. But it’s not enough to cover all the expenses, as discovered by Sweeney.
He said the city can still shrink the funding gap.
“The real place where we will be able to save our costs is within the transfer station operations and the shipping of the trash south. Literally, if we don’t consume it, then we’re not going to pay,” he said.
Municipal staff and assembly members said that could mean more recycling, burning pallets, increased composting and keeping glass out of the waste stream. The city is charged based on weight.
The assembly voted unanimously to cover the previous fiscal year’s funding gap. And it passed this year’s extra spending on first reading. That means it will come before the assembly again.