Even though the city owns the landfill, it could owe an additional $127,000 if Wisconsin legislators increase tipping fees.
Landfill operators are required to pay the state $5.90 per ton of garbage dumped, but the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance recently OK'd a proposal to increase those tipping fees to $13 per ton.
The city pays fees to the state on the 18,000 tons of residential trash city workers collect each year. Janesville charges other users $21.80 per ton.
City Manager Eric Levitt said it's too soon to guess how a state fee increase of $7.10 per ton would affect city services or charges.
"We don't charge our citizens for trash here, so is the city going to have to make (these fees) up?" Levitt said. "That's a question we'll have to evaluate."
John Whitcomb, city operations director, said the legislation could cause budget problems this year. The higher fees would begin in October, bringing an unplanned expense.
City officials also will have to take the new charges into account when planning next year's budget.
"Anytime you're increasing costs in face of levy limits, it obviously creates policy issues for the administration and the council," he said. "It gets to the heart of our budget process—where do you put your resources?"
Local environmentalist Julie Backenkeller hailed the legislation and said the revenue provided by the landfill does not excuse the effects of dumping.
"This can't be about money," she said. "This increase will encourage people to create less garbage, to do more recycling. Cheap landfilling only encourages landfilling."
Ann Hyzer, a member of the Sustainable Janesville Committee, said low tipping fees had some positive results for the city.
"I'm not one to say, ‘Well, let's increase fees so people don't come here,'" she said. "I would need to see the positive aspects of what the current tipping fee provides as well as the negative. That's not to say an increase couldn't be considered down the road."
Backenkeller said landfill income might remain steady if less garbage is created but higher tipping fees are charged.
Commercial and personal users of the landfill can expect to pay more if the proposal is approved. Dumpers could pay $28.90 per ton if the higher fees are approved. Levitt said the city includes tipping fees when setting the landfill rates.
One user is likely to bypass the full fees, thanks to an arrangement Whitcomb described as "mutually beneficial" for the company and the city.
Joseph Behr & Sons, a metal recycling company in Rockford, Ill., provides a byproduct called shredder fluff to the landfill for a reduced fee. Whitcomb said landfills are required to cover garbage with 6 inches of approved material. That's where Behr's shredder fluff comes in.
"It saves us money because we don't have to go and fetch soil to cover our waste," he said.
The company is exempted from tipping fees because shredder fluff is approved for covering the landfill.
Behr is one of only a few out-of-state users of the Janesville landfill.
Whitcomb said the city does not actively pursue waste from across the border.
The state Assembly is expected to take up the budget for consideration this week. The Senate is expected to consider it next week.
If approved by both chambers, Gov. Jim Doyle is could sign the budget into law by June 30.