San Carlos residential garbage customers using smaller carts will see their rates remain untouched while larger cart users receive decreases under proposed changes meant to help realign charges with the actual cost of providing service.
The City Council unanimously backed a plan Monday night that also calls for increasing the rates 1.47 percent for all unscheduled services like backyard services or overages. Both will take effect unless a majority of customers protest in writing at or before a Dec. 8 hearing.
City staff gave the council three options and it chose one that keeps the total amount of revenue nearly the same as the 2014 rates but coming from different avenues. This alternative keeps rates steady for the 20- and 32-gallon carts but decreases the 64-gallon cart by $5 to $52.23 and the 96-gallon cart by $15.
Councilman Matt Grocott proposed adding some increases to the smaller carts, too, but the motion failed for lack of a second.
Grocott said he wasn’t necessarily advocating an increase because the council can always choose a lower amount but wanted to make a point.
“I thought we should at least put it out there. All we’re doing is noticing people and I kind of wanted to send a signal to people to pay attention because it will happen eventually,” he said.
If the council approves the rate changes without a majority protest, the new charges will appear beginning the Feb. 1, 2015, billing cycle.
The city receives its collection 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.
Over the past few years, San Carlos, like nearly every SBWMA member agency, has wrangled with service rate increases to cover the projected change in costs and reconciling balances owed to previous provider Allied Waste.
Last year, San Carlos began bucking the trend by not recommending a rate increase due to a $101,290 surplus in part because of a Recology overpayment error. Again this year, city staff said no overall general rate increase is necessary which is why the council was also given the option of making no changes at all for commercial and residential customers.
The chosen option is a step toward bringing the rates charged customers closer to the actual costs of cart pickup. The trend of customers downsizing to smaller carts because of increased recycling and composting means the price structure doesn’t fully cover costs. For example, a 96-gallon cart is currently charged at $83.45 and will fall to $68.45 under the structure but the actual cart cost is $47.74 — a difference of $20.71.
The city plans to further research commercial rate structures and return with realignment options closer to the end of the Recology contract in 2020.
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