A July 1 increase in tipping fees assessed last year to the city for landfill use is showing its face on the city's expense report.

The 50-percent increase pushed the city's year-to-date expenses for waste removal to $442,155.15 at the close of the May calendar, according to solid waste superintendent Scotty Baldridge. That figure exceeds last year's end-of-May figure by $142,600.

Tonage collected, however, is only up slightly, according to the city's solid waste report. At the close of May 2006, city solid waste employees collected 18,348.54 tons of waste, including yard waste, residential waste and construction and demolition material.

This year, collections are up 665 tons.

By comparison, collections are up just over 3 percent, but expenses are up 48 percent.

Miami City Manager Michael Spurgeon told the city's Special Utility Board on June 18 that an 11.7-percent rate increase proposed by the city administration is now necessary. The increase would be phased in over a three-year period.

Administrators opted not to pass last year's 50-percent increase on to customers this year, according to Spurgeon, because the city had already placed a 4.5-percent cost of living increase for three years in the rates for curbside waste disposal service and tipping fees associated with the disposal of waste at Miami's transfer station.

The last cost of living increase was implemented in 2004.

Administrators say now that, looking at the proposed budgets over the next three years, the city can no longer absorb the increase as it anticipates expenses to increase.

Spurgeon said earlier this month that the tipping fee increase, combined with the increased cost in transportation, is now forcing the city to research alternative measures for waste disposal.

“Recycling is among those options,” Spurgeon said.

Tim Wilson, the city's solid waste superintendent, said recycling is an option, but it is “very expensive” and other communities are reporting a very slow return on the investment.

Wilson said the city is also looking at bringing back a city incinerator, contracting the hauling of waste to a landfill, entering into a long-term contract with a landfill site that would provide a financial incentive and investigating an option to sell the disposal side of the operation and focus efforts only on collection.

At the recommendation of the city manager, the Special Utility Authority made no decision on approving the proposal until the city opens solid waste proposals this week.

Spurgeon said he expects to come back to the authority with an ordinance requiring a cost of living increase to cover the expenses of solid waste collection.

Mayor Brent Brassfield said the proposed increase is “somewhat” of a temporary fix.

“We don't want to raise fees 1 percent, let alone 9 percent,” Brassfield said. “The question is, how are we going to address our waste disposal in the future? We will have to examine all options.”

For the past six years, according to Spurgeon, the city has operated the waste disposal program at just slightly over cost, keeping about $150,000 to $200,000 set aside for catastrophic events or unexpected expenses - such as the recent winter ice storm that brought an unexpected burden on the department as it cleared the debris from fallen limbs and trees.