ATLANTA — The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has taken steps to improve inspections and enforcement in the state's scrap tire program since an audit of the program three years ago.
However, funding for the program remains a problem, with the Georgia legislature still appropriating less than half the money gathered under the state's Solid Waste Trust Fund (SWTF) to use for scrap tire abatement, according to the June 2018 follow-up review by the Performance Audit Division of the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.
The original audit in September 2015 found that appropriations to the SWTF were well below the actual money collected, and that the number of activities funded by the SWTF had dropped over the previous decade, according to the report.
In 2015, auditors found deficiencies in inspection and enforcement arising from several factors, including:
- Staffing vacancies and uneven workload distribution;
- Insufficient guidance for inspectors;
- Decentralized information systems; and
- Inadequate management oversight.
"It also noted that the program lacked methods to ensure that scrap tire fees were being properly collected and remitted," the auditors said.
In the past three years, the Environmental Protection Division has done much to improve scrap tire inspections and enforcement, according to the report.
It created a Tire Management Unit to centralize the management of program inspectors, and created new policies and procedures to guide the work of inspectors, the auditors said.
It also filled vacant inspector positions, reallocated workloads and improved the information system used for tracking tire dump enforcement actions, they said.
"However, our review found that many parties had not responded to notices of violations sent by the program in 2017," the report said. "Officials indicated that the workload makes it difficult to follow up in all cases and that staff follow-up phone calls or emails would not be captured by the system."
Part of the problem is that appropriations to the SWTF remain only a portion of the money actually collected under Georgia's scrap tire fee, which amounts to $1 on each new tire sold in the state, the auditors said.
Scrap tire fee collections increased from $6.4 million in fiscal year 2015 to $7.2 million in FY 2017, the report said. But appropriations to the SWTF were only $3.2 million in FY 2017, and were actually reduced to $2.8 million in FY 2018, it said
The scrap tire fee must be reauthorized by its sunset date in June 2019, according to the report. The Environmental Protection Division has not yet prepared estimates of its funding needs, but intends to discuss its ongoing activities and projects with stakeholders to nail down its estimates, the auditors said.