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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 3:09 pm | Fair 66º


Santa Barbara Mulls Raising Rates for Trash, Wastewater Customers

Santa Barbara leaders will consider raising rates for wastewater and trash collection this year, starting with the city's finance committee meeting Tuesday. 

The increases would take effect in fiscal year 2016, which starts July 1, and state law requires that property owners be notified of rate increases and that a public hearing be held prior to increases being approved.

Notices of that public hearing will be included with utility bills sent to city customers during March and April, and those increases can be adopted unless a majority of property owners submit a written protest, according to a city staff report.

While the finance committee while be discussing the increases and making a recommendation, the ultimate decision must come from Santa Barbara's City Council, which will make a decision in June as part of its fiscal year 2016 budget discussions.

City staff are proposing an across-the-board increase of 5.5 percent for wastewater service rates to cover huge capital improvement project costs

"The increase for the maximum bill to a single-family residential customer would be $2.37 per month, from $43.00 to $45.37," the report stated.  

The rate increases will support ongoing costs for operation, maintenance and improvement of the city's water and wastewater systems.

As for solid waste collection fees, staff is proposing an increase of 0.75 percent to all customer classes, tied to the Consumer Price Index increase and higher tipping fees. 

"We are required to adjust rates to account for increase in inflation," said Matt Fore, Environmental Services manager, adding that increase compensates the city's contracted trash hauler, MarBorg Industries, for any increase they've seen in the cost of doing business.

Other changes come in the rates for trash cans and carts, which charge less per gallon than dumpsters, and incentivizing multi-unit residential customers to use cans, even though a dumpster might better suit their needs.

"While dumpster customers will experience a small rate decrease, staff is proposing to re-balance the cart and can rate such that no multi-unit residential customer receives more than a total 2 percent increase to their monthly bill due to this factor," a staff report said.

"We didn't want our rate structure to channel them to one type of container," Fore said.

All customers, with the exception of multi-unit customers, would see their trash rates increase 0.8 percent, which Fore said is "almost nonexistent."

Multi-unit customers, such as apartment buildings, may see their rates raise more significantly. 

For example, if a customer had five trash cans, five recycling cans and one green waste can, they would go from paying $229.22 to $234.78 after the increases, Fore said.

Those funds will go toward operating the city's Environmental Services Division and to MarBorg Industries

Part of the proposed increase is needed to cover higher tipping fees, which are fees charged by Tajiguas Landfill or the various recycling centers which dispose of the city's waste. 

Tuesday's finance committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room, 630 Garden St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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