Town of Lockport residents will pay 5.5 percent more in taxes under the $6.9 million budget passed unanimously by the town board Wednesday.
The tax hike, which requires the board to override the tax cap, is almost entirely a result of a 20 percent hike in refuse services, as water and sewer rates dropped several percentage points and fire protection costs increased much more modestly.
The town recently entered a new three-year contract with Waste Management, following the expiration of its previous contract with the refuse services provider.
Supervisor Mark Crocker said the town put the contract to bid, and Waste Management made the lowest offer.
“It’s not something we can negotiate," Crocker said. "Private companies bid on these contracts, and whatever we get back, we award to the lowest competent bidder.”
Nor could the town eliminate recycling from its refuse services. State law requires municipalities to offer recycling services, as long as there are "economic markets" for those materials.
What's more, Crocker said many residents "insist on recycling."
"It’s the best thing for the environment,” he said.
Recycling costs have skyrocketed in recent years, after China drastically tightened its standards on the cleanliness of the materials it would accept for recycling. China had in recent decades accepted nearly half of the global supply of plastics slated for recycling, according to NPR, citing statistics from the United Nations Comtrade Database.
The Asian nation's January 2018 policy shift upended the global recycling market, as providers either had to spend more to reach the new standards or seek other buyers of recyclables.
A spokesman for Waste Management told the Union-Sun & Journal in April the combination of costlier production and a less valuable final product has "significantly reduced revenues and put a strain on our ability to operate our facilities economically."
"This is not unique to this area; this is happening all over the country," Crocker said.
The new refuse rates will raise taxes on the average home, assessed at $100,000, by nearly $35. But thanks to decreases in sewer and water rates, such a homeowner would pay about $28.
The town board also adopted 2.5 percent raises for most town managers and elected officials, a rate that's comparable to the raises enjoyed by union-represented employees. Some non-union town employees received larger raises, including the budget officer and town judges. Crocker said the town board sought higher pay for the judges to avoid having trouble attracting qualified candidates.