The city of San Carlos is not required to raise residential garbage rates in 2014 but is considering doing so to bring them more in line with service costs and stave off future increases.
The recommended changes would add $3 to 20-gallon cans, $2 to 32-gallon cans and a 1.69 percent increase for all unscheduled services. Larger 64- and 96-gallon cart customers will see a $10 decrease.
On Monday night, the City Council will discuss if that is the route it prefers and schedule a public hearing on the proposal Dec. 9.
The recommended increase doesn’t bring in any new revenue to the city because it is a move toward aligning residential cart rates. However, it changes where the revenue comes from.
The council could also hold rates at 2013 levels to offset future increases which would actually create a small revenue surplus because of decreasing labor costs but it doesn’t help the city move toward aligning with actual cart costs, according to a report by management analyst Kristen Elderson.
The $286,645 surplus could equal a 3.5 percent drop in total rates but, as it is only an estimate of 2014, there would be rate increases if the projected revenue is not met.
A third new rate option would increase cart rates but not as much as the plan recommended by city staff. That proposal calls for a $2 increase on 20-gallon carts and $1 per month increase for 32-gallon carts. The larger sizes would see a $5 decrease for 64 gallons and $10 drop for 96 gallons. Like the preferred method, this option makes some progress toward alignment, albeit slower.
Vice Mayor Mark Olbert said Friday he still needs to evaluate the two increase proposals to parse out the differences between the relatively minor adjustments. Although he said the increases are understandable, particularly as more recycling has led to smaller garbage cans, he also knows why residents question the yearly jumps.
“I understand exactly how frustrating it is for people,” Olbert said.
He is also hoping by Monday’s meeting to get some information on the charges of commercial collection.
Councilman Ron Collins said he is still studying the details but his usual position is favoring systems that “pretty much keeps the city solvent” and “revenue neutral.”
One of the chief complaints he hears is that the rate structure is unfair because those with larger carts are not being charged the full cost of picking up the solid waste, he said.
Mayor Bob Grassilli had not had the chance yet to look at the options because of the ongoing pipeline situation with Pacific Gas and Electric taking his time but said not raising rates at all might be acceptable if there aren’t any consequences in doing so.
The city receives its service from Recology which contracts with the South Bayside Waste Management Authority. The SBWMA, also known as RethinkWaste, formed in 1982 and its members include Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, San Mateo County and the West Bay Sanitary District.
Nearly every member has wrangled with service rate increases to cover the projected change in costs and reconciling balances owed to previous provider Allied Waste.
Last year, the San Carlos City Council learned it needed a 12 percent rate adjustment to fully fund collection services in 2013 followed by a 3.25 percent increase in unscheduled service rates. The council ultimately passed a 6 percent to 9 percent base rate increase plus a $1-$2 additional charge for the 20- and 30-gallon containers. Doing both met the 12 percent adjustment needed.
Earlier this year, the city learned that 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. In June, city officials said the overcharging might mean customers might not get a 2014 increase.
The credit was included as part of the 2012 revenue reconciliation included in the figuring of the rates, according to Administrative Services Director Rebecca Mendenhall.
If the City Council does adjust the upcoming rates, they will become effective Jan. 1.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102