June 2, 2014

Modesto eyes higher garbage bills to help city trees

Modesto is poised to increase monthly garbage bills by as much as 6 percent for residential customers and by as much as 20 percent for commercial users.

Modesto is poised to increase monthly garbage bills by as much as 6 percent for residential customers and by as much as 20 percent for commercial users.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday nighton the proposed increases. The rate hikes would take effect July 1 if council members approve them. City staff is recommending the council approve the increases, which are expected to be at the full amounts allowed.

A single-family home would see its monthly trash bill increase from $27.34 to $29 per month under the proposal. The charges for commercial users vary based on the size of their bins and how often their trash is picked up.

For instance, a business or apartment complex with a 2-cubic-yard bin emptied once a week would see its garbage bill increase from $60.52 to $72.60 per month. A commercial user with a 4-cubic-yard bin emptied twice a week would see its bill increase from $242.08 to $290.40. The charge for a drop box, which is typically used for a remodeling project, will not change.

City officials say even with the increases, Modesto’s rates remain competitive compared with surrounding communities. A city report says Stockton charges $33.70 and Turlock $38.10 per month for residential garbage service compared with the $29 Modesto is proposing. The report states Modesto’s commercial rates also are competitive.

Modesto’s desire to maintain funding for its community forestry program is a big reason behind the proposed increases. The forestry workers prune and maintain the city’s roughly 200,000 trees along its streets and in its parks.

Community forestry has a $2.7 million operating budget, with $1.3 million of it coming from the general fund, $850,000 from the surface transportation fund and $550,000 from green waste fees, which are among the charges that show up on monthly garbage bills.

As part of balancing Modesto’s 2014-15 budget, which starts July 1, city officials have recommended returning the $1.3 million to the general fund and the $850,000 to the surface transportation fund. They are recommending raising green waste fees to make up for forestry’s revenue shortfall. Higher green waste fees means higher garbage bills.

The green waste fee increase for residential customers is $2.07 per month, but residential garbage bills are proposed to increase by $1.66 because of decreases in other fees. The green waste fee increase for commercial customers is $4.33 per month per cubic yard and makes up about 70 percent of the proposed increase for commercial users.

City officials say reducing the forestry program would hurt the city. California mandates that cities divert 50 percent of their solid waste – such as household garbage and tree trimmings – from landfills. The percentage will rise to 75 percent by 2020.

The material produced by the forestry program helps the city meet the diversion mandate. City officials also say the wood chips produced by forestry are a necessary component in the compost the city produces with the food waste, paper and cardboard it keeps out of the landfill. The city sells the compost.

The City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.

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