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Austin garbage fees could be increased

Monday, July 13, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On July 8, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee recommended increasing residential garbage collection fees, and approved a rough timeline for the Solid Waste Services Integrated Master Plan.


Staff presented a spreadsheet to SWAC that detailed the revenue impact of raising fees for 30, 60 and 90-gallon trash bins. SWAC Chair Gerry Acuña requested a more flexible increase in fees rather than a blanket increase of 4 percent, as staff recommended. Acuña told the committee he preferred varied rates because, “we’re one storm away from financial disaster and we’re one major fuel increase away from teetering on disaster. A simple, responsible increase would provide the security that the Solid Waste Services Department needs to provide rate payers with the service we’ve come to expect.”


SWAC’s fee recommendation would increase the residential base charge by six percent, plus a two percent increase for 30 and 60-gallon trash bins, and a four percent increase on 90-gallon bins. The committee also recommended a five percent increase in the anti-litter fee. Combined, residential customers would see an 85 cent increase for 30-gallon bins, a one dollar increase for 60 gallon containers, and an additional $1.45 for 90 gallon carts. The increase in fees, including an increase on commercial customers, would net the department an additional $4.164 million in revenue.


SWAC Co-chair Rick Cofer told the committee that the increased revenue would offset the loses garnered by the Green Star recycling contract, which could be a million dollars.  He told acting director Tammie Williamson, “The budget proposal that you made recommends spending one million dollars more than you make and that amount is entirely attributable to lost revenue from the Green Star contract, at least that’s my perception of it.” Williamson clarified that the million dollars would come from reserves, and that the department is not operating in the red. The department proposes freezing 10 positions in order to cut costs in this year’s budget.


With the staff recommendations and SWAC recommendations in tow, Solid Waste Services will make a full budget presentation to City Council on July 23.


Also discussed at the meeting was the Integrated Solid Waste Management Master Plan, which City Council has delayed several times. Council members approved negotiations with consulting firm HDR to move forward at the June 18 meeting, although there have been complaints about the level of input coming from citizens. Sustainability Administrator Jessica Kingpetcharat-Bittner said commissioners from the Resource Management Commission, the Environmental Board, the Sustainable Food Policy Board and SWAC would be involved and that two meetings will be held in late July to solicit public input and bring commissioners up to speed on the project. The plan will not be scheduled for discussion in front of the commission until August 12, “to allow people to review the draft scope of services,” she said.

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