Posted 10 months ago
By John Axtell
For the fifth straight year, SWANN…the Solid Waste Agency of Northwest Nebraska…will not raise rates. The SWANN board Thursday night adopted a hold-the-line $1.6-million dollar budget that’s only about $50,000 higher than last year despite a 4% merit raise for workers and a 12% increase in health insurance.
As a result, residential rates will stay at $22.10 a month in the communities where SWANN makes garbage collections and at $9.70 for rural residents. Swann had its last rate increase in 2008 and has raised rates only 4 times since 1995.
Executive director Jack Nemeth says those rates actually fall just short of meeting expenses, but between cash carryover and reserves the shortfall can be met without asking customers to pay more.
“We’re within about $54,000 best-guess and we have that money in contingency funds and so really can’t justify an increase at this point. I only hope the public realizes when we finally do have to have an increase, it hope it’s received in good spirits. Our goal is to postpone that as long as possible.”
Board chairman and Gordon City Manager Fred Hlava says everyone connected with SWANN works hard to hold down costs, which has allowed rates to remain generally unchanged over the years.
“It shows that from the board members to the staff are really looking for ways to save money and provide theses services in a cost-effective manner.”
Nemeth’s conservative approach to budgeting is a major reason the budget increase for the new year is so small; he turned out to be much too pessimistic when calculating fuel costs.
He based the budget on diesel averaging $4.30 a gallon for the year, and the price was actually closer to $4. SWANN also added a “pup trailer” to the truck hauling baled garbage from the baler in Chadron to the landfill about 15-miles north of town, cutting the number of trip about in half.
Also holding down the spending side of the SWANN budget is the decision to put off buying a new collection truck for another year, while the revenue side anticipates $120,000 of additional income from drop-box rentals, recycling, and…with a construction boom in the area…fees on disposal of construction debris.
SWANN provides landfill services for Dawes, Sioux, and Sheridan Counties, the incorporated communities in those counties, and the village of Hemingford. It also provides garbage pickup for Chadron, Gordon, Rushville, Hay Springs, Clinton, Whitney, and Harrison.