Dane County is hiking the fees it charges municipalities to compost yard waste, with Madison's share expected to jump from $51,000 to more than $252,000.
"We knew they were going to raise it, we just didn't know by how much," says Chris Kelley, Madison streets superintendent. The bill from the county won't come in until early next year but will have to be paid for out of the 2014 budget.
The fees are calculated based on the populations of the municipalities that send the county the waste. Since Madison is by far the biggest municipality, it pays the lion's share.
John Welch, Dane County's solid waste manager, says the county had no choice but to raise its rates, which have not increased since 1994.
"Basically the landfill operations have been subsidizing the compost sites," he says. "Not all the landfill users are compost users, so it didn't seem fair."
The new rates, Welch says, are geared to have the compost operations break even.
The county operates three composting sites, in Verona, the town of Westport and at the landfill (on the far east side of Madison), at an annual cost of about $350,000. Ten municipalities send yard waste to the county.
Kelley says the city will continue to collect yard waste but will look for cheaper places to compost it.