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February 6, 2007

State Audit: Cortlandville Residents Could Save $183 Per Household Annually for Garbage Collection Under Town Contract

Cortlandville residents who contracted for their own garbage collection paid more than twice as much $308 versus $125 on average each year as residents of three other Cortland County municipalities that contracted with private garbage haulers on behalf of their residents, according to an audit released today by the New York State Comptroller’s office.

Auditors compared what Cortlandville residents were paying for garbage collection, the type of service they were receiving and several other factors to ensure an equal comparison against what residents were paying in the villages of Homer and Marathon and the city of Cortland entities that contracted for this service for all residents. Auditors found that Cortlandville residents could save $183 annually for garbage collection, or more than $413,000 townwide, if the town contracted for this service rather than having residents do so on their own.

Auditors also identified several other benefits. For example, refuse haulers can service a larger number of households in smaller areas, increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. Municipal contracts also allow municipalities to limit the number of garbage trucks in neighborhoods and can specify the particular day and hours that refuse can be collected to improve safety and reduce noise, exhaust and litter.

Audits of other entities around the state have also shown significant savings for residents if towns and villages contract for garbage services for residents. For instance, an audit of 13 towns and villages in Broome and Sullivan Counties in 2006 found that refuse collection costs for residents would have dropped up to $233 annually, and another audit in 2005 found that residents in six northern New York municipalities could have saved about $140 each year.

The town supervisor disagreed with the audit findings. He said that it was not economically feasible to provide this service to the more rural sections of the town and that property taxes would increase. He said the town would not be initiating residential refuse collection in the near future. His full response is included in the audit. In responding to the supervisor’s concerns, auditors noted that they took population density into account when they calculated cost savings and that rather than putting the cost on residents’ tax bills it could be funded by a user fee.

When determining whether a municipal contract for refuse collection would benefit a municipality, auditors identified several questions that often arise and urged the town board to consider all the potential benefits carefully before making a decision such as:

  • Cost: Will the municipality incur greater cost? Generally municipal costs are insignificant when compared to potential savings for residents.
  • Choice: Do smaller, private haulers lose out? Municipalities having difficulty encouraging competition can design the contract specifications to service smaller, defined areas.
  • Discounts: What about senior discounts or lower costs for people who are away part of the year? Municipal contracts can be constructed to provider similar discounts and user charges based on the amount collected.

The Town of Cortlandville, population 7,900, is located in Cortland County. The town encompasses two villages and borders the city of Cortland.

Click here for a copy of the audit.




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