SPSA discusses budget

Published 8:31 pm Thursday, March 29, 2012

Board members of the regional trash authority discussed the agency’s annual budget during their Wednesday meeting, examining expenses such as a proposed raise, the impact of proposed tolls and state retirement system changes.

The board is expected to vote on the $44.6 million budget next month, after a public hearing on the $20 per ton reduction in the municipal tipping fee, which is the agency’s primary source of revenue.

Eric Martin, who represents Chesapeake on the board as the city’s director of public works, challenged the wisdom of giving the proposed 3-percent raise.

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“SPSA is really a reflection of the local governments,” he said, noting that many things are putting pressure on city and county budgets in the area. “I question whether that’s the appropriate approach to take in this trying time.”

He proposed a 1.5-percent December bonus for employees rather than a raise.

But Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Suffolk’s city manager who also sits on the board, encouraged her fellow board members to “reinvest in the employees that we have.”

“That is something I hope all of you will keep in mind,” she added.

Martin did note that the proposed reduction in the tipping fee is expected to save Chesapeake $1.9 million.

“That probably saved us 20 jobs,” he said.

Further discussion of salary increases was put off until next month.

The board members also discussed state retirement changes. The General Assembly has passed a measure that would mandate a 5-percent raise for employees in exchange for them contributing 5 percent to their retirement — something that would cost both employees and employers money.

SPSA Executive Director Rowland Taylor told the board that the impact to the trash authority would be about $82,000. The extra cost was not included in the original budget proposal, he said, so the authority would pinch pennies in other areas to find the money.

The agency also is trying to work out a special deal to lower its cost to pay tolls that are proposed on several local highways beginning sometime this year.

Tolls are expected on the Downtown Tunnel, the Midtown Tunnel and the MLK Extension project. Collections were initially slated to begin this summer, but several efforts are in the works to delay them or cancel the agreements altogether.

As part of a separate project, tolls are slated to begin on the Jordan Bridge this year as well.

Taylor said the groups should have some information in May on whether an agreement can be made. SPSA is not part of a list of exempt agencies that is reflected in state law.

Some board members said getting on that list should be a part of next year’s legislative agenda.

Next month’s meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. April 25 at 723 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake.