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The Orange County Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (3-R) Fee

Background for Solid Waste Service Tax District Proposal

February 2014

 

In 2004 the Board of Commissioners approved an every other week curbside/roadside recycling collection program for about 13,000 residences in unincorporated Orange County.  At that time the Board adopted a fee to fund the program, called the Rural 3-R Fee, that all eligible residences were billed annually on their tax bill.  The fee was assessed to all eligible for the service, regardless of whether or how often a resident used the service.

In 2012 the County Manager and the County Attorney advised the Board that they had concerns regarding the statutory justification for assessing this fee and recommended that the Board eliminate the fee immediately and consider other ways to fund that program.  So the 2012 tax bill was the last time the fee was assessed; the fee was $38/year.  In 2013 the Board provided an interim funding for the program from landfill reserve funds.

Over the next several months the Board discussed various options on how to address this funding problem.  Even elimination of the program was considered, but unanimously abandoned due to measured participation of the rural community of about 57%.  Some residents eligible for this service chose not to recycling, others delivered their recycling to convenience centers and a very few employed private haulers.  It was also considered that the service was important in order to meet the county’s aggressive waste reduction goal of 61%.

Ultimately, after considering and rejecting numerous funding alternatives, in December 2013 the Board indicated intent to implement a solid waste service district tax as the means to replace the funding lost when the fee was eliminated.  The Board also discussed a subscription service option whereby those residents who wanted to retain the service could pay and those who wished not to pay could voluntarily opt-out.

If the solid waste service district is ultimately adopted it is estimated that the district tax rate would be 1.5 cents per $100 dollars of assessed value of the property.  For example, property with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay $15/year in service district tax.  A solid waste service district is similar to a fire service district.

State statutes require a public hearing to be held prior to a Board adopting a service district and the property owners of all parcels to be included in the district must be notified by letter of the hearing.  The County Board will be hosting two public hearings:

 

  • March 18 at 6:00 PM at the Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill
  • April 1, 2014 at 6:00 PM at the County Social Services Center, Hillsborough Commons, 113 Mayo Street in Hillsborough

 

The 3-R Fee has historically financed our County's recycling and waste reduction programs. The 3-R Fee was implemented in 2004. Each improved property in Orange County receives a 3-R Fee for recycling services offered by the County.  Only the "Basic Fee" has been charged for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.

The list of questions below explains the 3-R Fee. If you have further questions about the 3-R Fee, please call the Revenue Collection office at 919-245-2725 option 2 or email: revenue@orangecountync.gov.

If you have questions about public recycling efforts in Orange County, please call the Department of Solid Waste Management at 919-968-2788 or email: recycling@orangecountync.gov

 

  1. Introduction to the 3-R Fee and the cost of recycling in Orange County
  2. Must I pay the 3-R Fee even if I don't recycle?
  3. What services does the 3-R Fee pay for?
  4. Why is the 3-R Fee necessary?
  5. What is the fee for each sector?
  6. How are the costs of the 3-R Fee determined?
  7. How does the County determine which 3-R Fees to assess to my property?
  8. How will the recycling program be funded in future years?
  9. What if I cannot afford to pay the 3-R Fee?
  10. What if I believe the fee is inaccurately assessed to my property and wish to appeal?
  11. Who does not have to pay the fee?
  12. How do I get a blue or orange recycling bin if I have been billed for curbside recycling but don't currently have a bin?
  13. What if I live in an apartment complex or mobile home park (MHP) that does not now have recycling and want to get that started?
  14. By what authority does Orange County charge the 3-R Fee?

1. Introduction: The Cost of Recycling in Orange County

The Orange County Solid Waste Management Department is responsible for all public recycling efforts in Orange County, including those that serve the Towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough plus the services for residents of unincorporated Orange County. The 3-R Fee (waste reduction, reuse and recycling fee) provided the majority of the funds used by Orange County to pay for the costs of the recycling programs and support services. For fiscal year FY 13-14 the $1.75 million in costs of providing curbside and apartment recycling will be met from Solid Waste Department landfill reserve funds. The remaining funds come from revenue from the sales of recyclable materials plus a subsidy from the Solid Waste enterprise fund reserves. Those funds were formerly paid from landfill tip-fee revenue but that source of funding is gone with closure of the Solid Waste Landfill in July 2013.

The 3-R Fee is assessed annually and billed on the property tax bill. This year for 2013-14 only the basic (B) fee has been assessed. All improved properties in Orange County are subject to the Basic fee which pays for recycling services generally available to all. Previously, a separate collection service fee was assessed to all properties eligible to participate in the Multifamily recycling program (M fee), the Rural Curbside recycling program (R fee), or the Urban Curbside recycling program (U fee). For the tax bill in 2013the Basic Fee is raised to $47 from $37 per unit per year. The Multifamily Fee, the Rural Curbside fee, and the Urban Curbside fee are not billed. A property with multiple units (whether those units are residential or commercial) will be assessed one fee for each unit. The owner of each habitable property will be assessed for the Basic fee regardless of whether the occupants choose to recycle or not.

 

2. Must I pay the fee if I don't recycle?

Yes, all owners of improved property in Orange County must pay the 3-R Fee that supports the County's basic recycling, waste reduction and reuse programs. While participation in the County’s recycling programs is voluntary, the fee is assessed to all eligible properties whether they use the services or not. Orange County encourages all residents and businesses to take full advantage of the various recycling and waste reduction services available to them.

 

3. What services does the fee pay for?

The 3-R Basic Fee funds all basic public recycling efforts in Orange County including drop-off, convenience center recycling,  hazardous waste, electronics and public education. It also funds recycling services recently transferred from the Landfill Division due to the closing of the MSW landfill.  

UNC Chapel Hill does not generally pay the 3-R Fee as it has its own recycling program although some off-campus facilities or UNC-owned properties that use County programs are subject to the fee on an individual basis. The curbside and apartment collection fees formerly collected provided almost all the funding needed to operate those specific recycling programs. Now operating funds for those programs will temporarily come from the Solid Waste Fund Reserves.

The 3-R Fee historically enabled the County to support and maintain its ambitious recycling and waste reduction efforts and  enabled the County to expand its recycling programs to include the collection of corrugated cardboard by our curbside programs,  rigid plastics at our staffed convenience centers, and conversion to single stream recycling.  Funded public programs include:

  • Urban curbside weekly collection for 18,240 homes
  • Rural curbside bi-weekly collection for 14,300 homes (approximately 65% of homes in the unincorporated area of the county)
  • Multi-family recycling collection available to all apartment complexes and some mobile home parks including 16,400 units
  • Household hazardous waste and commercial hazardous waste programs
  • Electronics and fluorescent lamp recycling
  • Recycling collection and maintenance services at five 24-hour recycling drop-off sites and all five County Solid Waste Convenience Centers
  • Recycling services for bars, restaurants, and other eligible businesses
  • Recycling services for all government buildings in Orange County and its Towns
  • Automotive waste recycling - motor oil, oil filters, antifreeze, batteries
  • Full-time education and outreach
  • Processing, transporting and marketing of recyclable materials
  • Related indirect program-related environmental support costs
  • Eubanks Road facility programs such as scrap tire, scrap metal/appliance recycling, yard waste mulching and the sale of compost.

 

4. Why is the 3-R Fee necessary?

The 3-R Fee was enacted in June 2004 by the Board of Orange County Commissioners to finance Orange County's recycling and waste reduction programs. The County began assessing the 3-R Fee with the 2004 tax bill. Each improved property in Orange County receives a 3-R Fee to pay for some of the recycling services offered by the County.

In 2013, the Fee will be limited to only the basic (B) fee as the legal basis for curbside and apartment recycling fees is uncertain and alternative future funding options are under consideration.

Prior to 2004, the Department of Solid Waste Management used landfill tipping fees to cover more than 90% of all of the solid waste enterprise fund expenses including the operational expenses of the Landfill and Recycling Divisions. The remaining revenue funding the department came from a combination of sale of recyclables and mulch, interest on reserve funds, state reimbursements for managing tires and white goods (large appliances including, washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.), and various state grants. Those other sources of revenue remain but solid waste landfill tip fees are eliminated due to landfill closure.

In 2004 the County's solid waste enterprise fund reached a point where it could no longer continue as a self-funding entity without an additional source of revenue other than landfill fees to cover the costs of waste reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts. To a significant degree this funding shortfall was due to our success in reducing the amount of waste disposed of in the landfill and thereby reducing the amount of landfill tip-fee revenue. To remedy that situation the Board of County Commissioners adopted the 3-R Fee to finance public waste reduction and recycling programs and services in Orange County. The 3-R Fee is assessed to all owners of improved property in Orange County and is included on property tax bills.

Recycling revenues from marketing collected materials have never covered the cost of operating the recycling programs (see question 1), though the County’s recycling efforts have preserved natural resources, reduced the toxicity of our waste stream by preventing the disposal of hazardous materials, helped reduce greenhouse gases, and have prevented the disposal of thousands of tons of materials in the Orange County Landfill.

With the implementation of the 3-R Fee Orange County maintained its fiscal self-sufficiency in solid waste and has achieved North Carolina's highest waste reduction rate.. Orange County offers its citizens a broad range of recycling opportunities, and sustains a high level of environmental stewardship; the 3-R Fee remains the primary funding source for these successful waste reduction efforts. Other recycling program funding of about $1.75 million will now come from Solid Waste reserves.

 

5. What is the fee for each sector?

Only the Basic Services Fee was charged in 2013-14.  All other costs have been covered by Solid Waste Management landfill reserve funds.

Fee Type Fee Description Annual Fee
B Basic Services Fee
Charged to owners of all habitable units in Orange County and the portion of the Town of Chapel Hill in Durham County.

The Basic Fee covers costs of “universal” recycling and waste reduction services generally available to all residences and qualifying businesses throughout Orange County including drop-off recycling, waste audits, hazardous waste services, electronics recycling, automotive waste recycling, recycling drop-off sites, public education, and administration.

$47/unit/year

NONE OF THE FOLLOWING WILL BE BILLED IN 2013-2014.

Former fees shown for reference only.

M Multifamily Unit Recycling Service Fee
Charged to owners of habitable apartment units, mobile home parks or other high density developments eligible for multifamily-style recycling service.
Fee covers the costs of the multifamily recycling collection program (including related indirect expenses). The multifamily recycling program collects recyclable materials in roll-carts from recycling sites established on the serviced property. $19/unit/year
R Rural Curbside Recycling Fee
Charged to owners of all habitable units eligible for this every-other-week curbside recycling collection service.
Fee covers the costs of rural curbside recycling program (including related indirect expenses). The rural curbside recycling program collects recyclable materials in orange recycling bins every other week from eligible properties in unincorporated Orange County. $38/unit/year
U Urban Curbside Recycling Fee
Charged to owners of all habitable units within Town limits eligible for this weekly curbside recycling collection service.
Fee covers the costs of urban curbside recycling program (including related indirect expenses). The urban curbside recycling program collects recyclable materials in blue recycling bins every week from eligible properties within the town limits of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough $52/unit/year

 

6. How is the cost of the various 3-R Fees determined?

The dollar amount of the 3-R Fee is directly tied to the full cost of providing recycling services. As part of preparing the annual budget for the Recycling Division, the full cost of the various recycling programs is analyzed. The full cost of each service (Universal Services, Multifamily Collection, Rural Curbside Collection, and Urban Curbside Collection) has been divided by the number of units eligible to receive the service, and this has been the basis for determining the annual fee per unit. See question #1 above for background.

Future program revenue needs will be determined using the full cost method but the revenue-raising mechanism may change in future years.

 

7. How does the County determine which 3-R Fees to assess to my property?

As noted in the schedule of fees table in question 5 above, all improved properties in Orange County are subject to the 3-R Fee. Every improved property will be assessed only the Basic Services Fee in 2013. The Multifamily, Rural Curbside, and Urban Curbside Fees will NOT be assessed.

In general, all single family residential units inside the town limits of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, or Hillsborough are eligible to receive Urban Curbside recycling services but no fee will be assessed for that service in 2013. A single-family, in-town residence paid $52 per year last year for weekly curbside recycling plus the $37 basic fee for universal services. In 2013 they will pay only the basic fee which is now $47.

The County’s Rural Curbside recycling program services approximately 65% of the unincorporated areas of Orange County.  Rural residential units eligible for bi-weekly curbside service will not pay the Rural Curbside Recycling Fee in 2013 but will receive the service.  In 2013, they will pay only the basic fee of $47.

Mobile homes in parks in areas eligible for collection will not pay a collection fee this year, but will receive collection services. The will pay only the basic fee of $47 per unit based on the number of habitable units in the park.  

The owner of an apartment complex or other property eligible for multifamily type recycling service will pay only the basic fee of $47 per unit per year but will receive collection services.

Owners of the parcel of land on which there are single-wide mobile homes or leaseholds on which there are double-wide homes or other habitable structures, will be assessed the Basic 3-R Fee for all the services that units on their property are eligible to receive. The total 3-R Fee will be determined by the number of structures or units located on that parcel of land. Each unit will be billed only the basic fee of $47, regardless of which services are received in 2013.

The following will also be assessed only the Basic Services Fee of $47 per year:

  • Single-family residences located in the portions of unincorporated Orange County that are not eligible to receive either rural curbside or multifamily recycling service. This includes all the single wide mobile homes on properties on which there are single-wide mobile homes. The 3-R Fee will be assessed to the real property owner for each unit on that property.

 

  • Commercial and other non-residential properties including  tax-exempt properties. These properties are subject to the Basic (universal services) fee assessed based on the number of discrete businesses or other entities on the parcel. In the case of multi-tenant office buildings, the fee will be assessed based on the number of tenants’offices (“front doors”) counted in a field survey conducted by the Solid Waste Management Department. Shopping center owners will receive one fee for each tenant. All public buildings – schools, local governments, state government, OWASA - except those owned and operated by UNC and served in their recycling program also pay the fee. If the Department of Solid Waste Management determines that a non-residential entity is eligible to receive Urban, Multifamily or Rural Curbside recycling collection, the owners of the property will receive the service but in 2013; no curbside or multifamily or rural fee will be charged, only a basic fee.

 

8. How will recycling programs be funded in future years?

The Board of Orange County Commissioners will consider a limited number of funding options for future funding of recycling including creation of a solid waste tax district or other means. Other means of financing and organizing solid waste services will also be considered including evaluating the creation of a Solid Waste Authority.  The key objective will be to develop funding mechanisms that are sustainable, predictable and dedicated only to covering costs of the programs and services offered, not other outside programs or services.

For the coming tax year only the Basic (B) fee of $47 will be charged to each improved property in Orange County.

 

9. What if I cannot afford to pay the fee?

The Board of County Commissioners, in recognizing that there are citizens with limited income, has created a fund to assist those citizens. To qualify for assistance, the citizen must complete an application and provide financial documentation required. Maximum annual income level to qualify is $27,100 per household in 2013, but the income limit may increase in future years. Contact the Orange County Revenue Department at (919) 245-2725 press #2 or email tax@orangecountync.gov if you wish to discuss the possibility of receiving assistance to pay the 3-R Fee.

Visit the Revenue Departments 3R Fee Assistance webpage for the assistance form and other information.

 

10. What if I believe the fee is inaccurately assessed and wish to appeal?

The County has developed a formal appeals process for the fee. One must first complete an appeals form. You may obtain an appeals form from this website and you can also request a form from the Revenue Collection Office 919-245-2725 option 2 or by mail:
Revenue Collection Office
Orange County
PO Box 8181 Hillsborough NC 27278
Attn: 3R Fee Appeal.

Follow the instructions on the form, sign and submit the form (paper original copy only) by mail to:

Orange County Solid Waste Management
PO Box 17177
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Attn: Director

A review of the appeal will then be conducted by County Solid Waste staff utilizing information provided by County Land Records, the County Assessor’s Office and Solid Waste Management. Appellants will receive written notification of the outcome of their appeal.

 

11. Who does not have to pay the 3-R Fee?

In general all improved properties in Orange Country are subject to the 3-R Fee. There are two exceptions: University of North Carolina properties that are served by the UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (a separate publicly funded recycling program servicing UNC-Chapel Hill Facilities); and those improved properties that do not have the capability to generate recyclable wastes (e.g. a paved parking lot that is listed as an improved property but that, in and of itself, cannot generate recyclables).

Additionally, those property owners who qualify for the 3-R Fee payment assistance program (see FAQ # 9) may receive public assistance in paying the 3-R Fee.

 

12. How do I get a blue or orange recycling bin if I have been billed for curbside recycling but don't now have a bin?

Every household eligible for Urban or Rural Curbside recycling service is issued two recycling bins. The first two bins issued to each household are free and additional bins are sold for $7.00 each. Recycling bins provided by the County remain property of the County, and we ask that as citizens move away they leave their bins at the house where they were issued. If your household does not have bins, or if the bins originally issued to your household have been damaged or stolen, the County will provide a replacement at no cost. Bins provided by Orange County Solid Waste must be picked-up at 1207 Eubanks Road as there is no delivery service.

There are two household recycling programs in Orange County, Rural Curbside and Urban Curbside. The Urban Curbside recycling program services all eligible residences within the corporate limits of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, or Hillsborough. The Rural Curbside recycling program services about 65% of all residences on rural recycling routes outside of town limits. To distinguish between the two programs, households on the urban curbside program are issued BLUE recycling bins, and households on the rural curbside program are issued ORANGE bins.

If you live within Town of Chapel Hill corporate limits and need a new bin or if you need to replace missing or stolen bins come to the Orange County Solid Waste Management Administrative Offices at 1207 Eubanks Road. Bins are available there from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

If you live within Town of Carrboro, call the Carrboro Solid Waste Supervisor at (919) 918-7433 or email solidwaste@townofcarrboro.org to request a replacement bin if your bin has been destroyed or stolen. Residents of new homes in Carrboro will automatically be supplied with two recycling bins when they purchase their roll out trashcan.  

If you live within the Town of Hillsborough, call 919-732-2104 x222 or email via their webpage Public Works Department request form. Residents of new homes will receive a new recycling bin from the Town of Hillsborough when new roll out trashcans are issued.

If you live on one of the rural curbside recycling routes and need  new or replacement ORANGE bins, Orange County Solid Waste Management  Administrative Office in Chapel Hill located at 1207 Eubanks Road, and this office is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (or other times by special arrangement).

If you live on one of the rural curbside recycling routes and need  new or replacement orange bins, you can pick them up at the Orange County Solid Waste Management Administrative Office, 1207 Eubanks Road, Chapel Hill. 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

To find out if you live in an area serviced by the rural curbside recycling program, please check our list of serviced streets or call (919)968-2788.

 

13. What if I live in an apartment complex, mobile home park (MHP), or other property that does not now have recycling service and I want to get recycling started?

Orange County expands recycling services as resources are available and when proper arrangements for service can be made. If you live at a multifamily property that does not currently have recycling service and you are a renter please request that your property owner or manager contact the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department at 919-968-2788 or email us to inquire about recycling service.

If you are the owner or manager of an unserviced property and are interested in recycling service, please contact us directly. Solid Waste staff will schedule a site visit and determine how and if the site can be added. If service can be established, collection receptacles will be provided and education, outreach and public collection service will commence.

 

14. By what authority does Orange County charge the 3-R Fee?

NCGS § 153A-102 (Commissioners to set fees) enables Counties to charge fees for services permitted or required by law.

 

Revised: 7/1/13