Highland City Council approved residential and commercial rate increases for trash collection services from Burrtec Waste Industries during its meeting on Tuesday, June 9.
The rate increases were adjustments to the city’s franchise agreement it holds with Burrtec requested by the company to pass along increases in refuse disposal and recycling fees set by the county over the past year.
For residents, the adjusted rates will increase the monthly fee for curbside trash pick up from $26.64 to $28.30, an increase of $1.66 monthly. The increase equates to an additional $19.92 a year. Highland’s new residential service rate is $0.36 per month less than the average survey rate of 13 neighboring cities.
Commercially, the rate for service of a 3 cubic yard bin will increase from $210.34 to $237.17 a month.
When reporting to the city council on Burrtec’s request for the rate adjustment Public Services Manager Melisssa Morgan advised that the increases are due to increases in county fees that the city and Burrtec do not control.
In February 2018, China (the main consumer of American recycling) banned the importing of 24 types of waste material and set tougher, more expensive standards for other materials. According to the staff report, this has taken the rate component for processing recycling from a revenue source to an expense.
In response to this dramatic shift, the county raised its per ton refuse disposal fee by $0.20, its recycling processing fee by $0.67 and its greenwaste processing fee by $0.26.
In addition to the county’s rate increases, the new rate also includes $0.53 consumer price index increase.
Morgan pointed out that the fee that the city does control, the franchise fee, has not increased since the franchise agreement was first approved in August 2018. Highland’s franchise fee with Burrtec is at 10 percent of the total operator fees, refuse disposal, greenwaste processing and recycling processing, plus a 1.25 percent hazardous materials component. This 11.25 percent rate is below the 13.75 percent average of 13 local cities.
The rate adjustment also includes the elimination of a $0.24 street sweeping fee. Originally, the city planned to roll this $0.24 reduction into a pavement impact fee increase, but, due to this year’s abnormally high rate increase for trash fees, the city decided not to increase the pavement impact fee, in order to lessen the impact of the new trash fees on residents.
“The biggest component to this increase is the recycling market that has dropped out and there’s no return. However, the state still requires that we recycle. The revenue has disappeared but we have to continue to maintain this program,” said Councilman John Timmer.
According to Morgan, the city received 39 letters in opposition to the rate adjustment as well as continued opposition to the city collecting the fees through the county tax roll, which was a condition of the Burrtec franchise agreement.
As part of the franchise agreement the city received free illegal dumping removal, free bulky item pick up for residents, street sweeping services and funding for a new code enforcement officer.
Several of the public comments objected to new fees for garbage barrel replacement and exchange. Morgan clarified that these fees do not apply to barrels replaced due to normal wear and tear and that the first replacement and exchange requests are free of charge.
The most common cause for premature replacement is residents putting hot coals in the bins and melting out the bottoms, Morgan said. The most common exchange request is to exchange a dirty bin with a clean one.
The barrel exchange fee is $16.85 and the barrel replacement fee is $72.56.
Other public comments accused the placement of the trash collection fees on the tax role of being an “end around” of Prop 13, which requires voter approval of local special taxes.
The city council voted 4-1 to approve the rate adjustment, with Councilman Jesse Chavez dissenting.