The day is approaching where Richmond County residents who don’t pay their taxes won’t be dumping their trash in public facilities.

Richmond County supervisors gave the go-ahead to a plan requiring passes to access public dumps, and those passes will only be issued once all personal property tax and real estate tax is paid.

Is non-resident dumping a problem?

In the past, Richmond County supervisors have raised questions about the possibility of people from neighboring counties using its dumps.

Richmond County administrator Morgan Quicke was fairly dismissive saying to whatever degree that may be happening, it was likely that nearly equal amounts of Richmond County trash was going into neighboring counties’ dumps.

Now, there is no data to show outsiders are dumping in Richmond County, and currently there’s no way to collect that data. According to Quicke, he’s ready to implement a pass policy to see if it’ll save the county money.

Over the past 14 months, the tonnage of trash has increased five to 10 percent per month. Quicke realizes that a good amount of that is probably due to people being home and cleaning more during the pandemic. But in addition to that increase, a major driver for new policy is the growing number of tires, which is so “extremely high” that Richmond County is having difficulty disposing of them in a timely manner.

Many adjoining counties charge for tire disposal but we don’t charge our residents, so we want to ensure that the facilities are operating solely for the benefit of Richmond County, Quicke said.

Taxes to determine residency

Quicke insists the primary purpose of the upcoming pass policy is to ensure Richmond County residency. But there are numerous ways to determine residency without involving taxes.

Enhanced tax collection is a secondary motive, said Quicke. Furthermore, as proposed, the Treasurer’s office will mail out two passes per household after receiving tax payments, and that is the most effective and efficient process, Quicke said.

Residents who aren’t subject to personal property tax or real estate tax will be eligible for passes and can contact the county.

The risk versus possibility

Richmond County collects about $110,000 a year from late fees and penalties on taxes, which is factored into the budget, and this policy could push more people to pay sooner reducing that revenue.

Quicke said those funds “are not a large contributor to the overall budget” and he expects there will still be money coming from those sources.

Richmond County expects to pay about $7,000 to get the pass program up and running, and there is a risk that the county won’t save enough to recoup that money.

But Quicke said contacts with Waste Management reported that other localities that started confirming residency saw their trash volumes drop.

Richmond County currently comes out of its coffer with $700,000 a year to pay for free trash disposal, and even if it only sees a one percent decrease that’ll cover the program’s startup cost. A 10% reduction will save the county $25,000, not including brush, tires, etc., Quicke calculates.

Delinquent tax and disposal

Although the exact details of the program remain to be worked out, the county has discussed having passes go into effect January 1 each year.

Until March 1, the county would likely exercise “soft enforcement” whereby anybody without a pass is warned that they need to get one. But on March 1, “hard enforcement” would go into effect, meaning no pass, no dumping.

Generally, by the of end of February over 95 percent of the current year taxes are collected so most people wouldn’t lose access to the dumps under that system.

But what about the other four percent of residents with unpaid taxes? Where will their trash go?

Richmond County Board Chairman said he really hopes this program doesn’t result in trash being dumped along the roads again.

“Between VDOT and the Richmond County Anti-Litter Committee, there have been strides made in helping to limit our roadside trash problem. We are hopeful that this will not be a concern that we will be faced with, but should it arise, steps will be taken to mitigate, including the involvement of the Sheriff’s Office,” Quicke, said later.

Another matter that remains to be sorted out is whether people who owe delinquent taxes from previous years will need to be fully caught up before they’re allowed to dump.