An accounting error by the county’s garbage service provider may mean that San Carlos customers won’t see an otherwise expected rate increase come 2014.
Recology overcharged San Carlos customers more than $750,000 by collecting money to close out the former contract with Allied Waste even though those charges were supposed to end in 2011. The charges were applied to the 2012 and 2013 rates, resulting in roughly 18 months of erroneous collection that wasn’t identified until recently by San Carlos Assistant City Manager Brian Moura and Marshall Moran, the finance manager of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority.
“The silver lining is that it keeps future rate increases down although personally I’d call that more like a brass lining,” said Vice Mayor Mark Olbert.
Olbert said the error is an example of why the SBWMA needs to provide more rather than less oversight of its garbage provider — a current point of debate as the authority’s 12 member cities decide whether to move from appointed boardmembers to elected officials.
“I perfectly understand people being upset about [the error] and I’m upset about it, too,” Olbert said. “We really need to have a better system for confirming that when you send information about what they are supposed to collect that they actually get it,” Olbert said.
Moura said he sent Recology a rate letter telling it the money owed for Allied had been paid but somehow that information was either not received or processed, leading to the continued billing. After removing its payments, Recology then sent the remainder to San Carlos for items such as street sweeping fees. A spreadsheet of the funds raised a red flag.
“I got to the line item that said 2012 Allied Waste remittance to city and said ‘what is this?’” Moura said.
The fact that the collection continued into 2013 is even more unusual, Moura said.
Recology spokesman Gino Gasparini said he is not aware of whether the charges involved money connected to Allied or how exactly the overcharging happened but that Recology gave San Carlos back what it thought was an overpayment.
The overages have stopped and the city is now working with Recology to credit the funds back toward future solid waste rates.
“It’s a big enough number that it should offset the year to year increase,” Moura said.
Olbert said he would be interested in learning if the money could be credited back to individual accounts rather than flatten out future rates but Moura said the 2014 credit is the most logical way to reconcile the mistake.
Gasparini also said customers should rest assured their money is being counted and not lost or hiding.
“It’s coming back our way and we’ll apply it to the future increase,” he said. “It’s almost as if the money went into the bank.”
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