|The incinerator has been losing money every year since 1993, totaling nearly $25 million in losses through 2002.
Download the Actual Incinerator Budget (1983-2003) (in MS Excel 95 format)
A new study of the incinerator reveals that proceeding with plans to improve the incinerator could be even more costly to city taxpayers than closing it down. The study, conducted by PennFuture, was presented to City Council during its budget hearings on December 11. In November when the mayor presented his budget to Council, he told members of City Council that if the incinerator closes, the city would have to raise taxes by 3 mills and increase trash collection rates by 35 percent.
However, the study showed that if the city borrows the money to add the pollution control devises and expand the incinerator and then fails to attract its maximum daily allotment of trash at 720 tons a day, city taxpayers will be looking at subsiding the incinerator to the tune of $250 for each household each year for the life of the bonds. The analysis is based on the audit documents provided by the Harrisburg Authority.
Under the mayor's scenario, the millage rate increase would hike taxes by about $120 a year (for a home with the assessed value of $40,000) and the increase in trash fees by about $70 annually. (Current trash rates stand at $16.58 a month for refuse and trash disposal. A 35 percent increase would add an additional $5.80 to the monthly charge.)
PennFuture's analysis of the incinerator pointed out the following facts.
A group of citizens and environmental groups have banded together to form a new organization, the Coalition Against Incineration (CAI). The group is sponsoring a petition drive and series of street skits to educate the public about the hazards of keeping the Harrisburg Incineration in operation.
The first skit took place December 4 outside the City Government Center to urge City Council members to vote against guaranteeing the $25.5 million debt to restructure the bond issue for the incinerator. Citizens pretended to throw fake money into a fake incinerator to drive home the point that voting to restructure the debt and to borrow more money for the incinerator is like burning taxpayers' money.
The second took place on December 12 outside the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection headquarters at 400 Market Street to draw attention to the harm that the Harrisburg Incinerator is doing to its host community. Members called upon the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make good its commitment to close down the Harrisburg incinerator by December 19.
The city is holding talks with the state DEP and EPA in an effort to keep the incinerator operating. The mayor of Harrisburg claims that closing the incinerator will have catastrophic consequences to the city's finances.
The CAI members believe:
Letter to the Editor
On Monday December 4th I had the misfortune of attending the open session of Harrisburg City Council. This was a special legislative meeting called to pass a resolution re-affirming their intentions to pay back the $25.5 million bonds to derate the incinerator. On October 31st they had passed a bill approving the sale of these bonds to raise $25.5 million to purchase software, etc to derate the incinerator so it would pass the new EPA guidelines. They have since been sent a letter from EPA telling them that what they want to do was not acceptable to EPA and the incinerator would close on Dec. 19th if they did not make the needed corrections. The bond underwriters were naturally nervous about the city's intention to repay the bonds if the incinerator closed and asked for this unprecedented session to reaffirm their previous vote. I imagine that they are worried about selling bonds to finance somet! hing that is under EPA threat of closing. I am sure I wouldn't want to buy them under these circumstances. I had assumed that this would be a forum where the residents could voice their opinions and concerns regarding future city plans and operations. What I saw was a court of pouched Australian marsupials.
The fiscal responsibility shown by the so-called council reminded me of a story about a young man who borrowed money to start a produce business. The young man bought a pickup truck and went to South Carolina where he purchased watermelons 3 for a dollar. He returned to the area and sold the melons for 25 cents each. Business was so good; he borrowed more money to buy a bigger truck. I think it is time for city council and the city residents to tell the mayor he doesn't get any more money to buy a bigger truck!