NBC 10 I-Team: Trash cash grab?

A budget proposal could send tax dollars that Rhode Island cities and towns pay to dump trash at the state’s landfill into the General Fund instead, one example of a questionable budget practice known as, “fee scooping.” (WJAR)

A budget proposal could send tax dollars that Rhode Island cities and towns pay to dump trash at the state’s landfill into the General Fund instead, one example of a questionable budget practice known as, “fee scooping.”

The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the public-private hybrid that runs the Central Landfill, receives what’s known as tipping fees from cities and towns on every truckload of trash they dump.

But the current budget proposal calls for $3 million of that money to be sent back to the state in the next month, and another $3 million next year, for a total of $6 million in scooped fees.

RIRRC isn’t the only target of budget scoops.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s current budget proposal, which now being worked out inside the State House, also includes a $10 million scoop from Rhode Island Housing over the next two years, with the Student Loan Authority expected to give back $3 million during that time, and another $1.5 million set to be scooped from the Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

The NBC 10 I-Team sat down with John Simmons, who heads the non-partisan Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, to dig deeper into fee scooping.

"When you get into the quagmire of scoops, it's probably best not to use them,” Simmons said. “I think it's very poor budgeting when you have to use the scoops to balance your budget.”

The NBC 10 I-Team learned at least one local community is taking a stand.

The Charlestown Town Council sent a strongly worded resolution opposing the fee scoop from RIRRC to the governor and state leaders, saying taxpayers in Charlestown expect tipping fees to be spent on improving the landfill -- period.

“All the best practices say don't do it,” Simmons said of budget scooping.

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