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Solid Waste Services plans FY13 rate increase for carts, base rate

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The city’s Solid Waste Services Department appears set to increase its rates for fiscal year 2013. Though exact figures weren’t yet available, department head Bob Gedert told the city’s Solid Waste Advisory Commission that the hike would be for both cart fees and the base rate the department charges its customers.


The evening also included a brief discussion on the hotly debated bottom line of the city’s residential single stream recycling program. Gedert’s figures illustrated the turn from loss to profit that he’s touted since the program was turned over to Texas Disposal Systems (TDS).


This all came as part of Gedert’s presentation of Solid Waste’s fiscal year 2012 budget. His appearance before the commission marked the first time that those numbers were discussed publicly. “I have not had time to walk through (this) Powerpoint with Council. They’re a bit behind in their schedule on their Tuesday work sessions and so I got bumped,” he said with a laugh.


Commission chair Gerry Acuña asked Gedert if, considering the pending rate increases for both Austin Energy and the Austin Water Utility, Solid Waste Services should have also considered raising its fees in 2012. Gedert was momentarily spared as discussion moved on.


After the hearing, Gedert told In Fact Daily that a rate increase in 2012 would have helped the implementation of the new Solid Waste Services Master Plan. However, he added that, from the perspective of “those who pay the bills … we really need to stage it so that the different departments have more of a step plan over the years.”


“I pay my bill too,” he added. “To see all three utilities go up in one year seems very unfair.”


Commission Vice Chair Rick Cofer wondered about Solid Waste’s budget history. “My question is for the last three years, I think every budget has brought in less revenue than it was going to expend, but the fund balance has increased by like $6 million,” he said. “How did that happen?”


Gedert’s answer to that question also served to put his department’s needs into context. “In the last two years, our department has had very serious cutbacks on expenditures from the adopted budget,” he said. “We have gone through two years of under-filling vacancies … Those were intended to abate the need to go to Council for a rate increase. It’s putting that date one year, and one year, and one year further back. We’re now at the stage where we do need to go for a rate increase.”


Gedert also touched on revenue derived from the city’s residential single stream recycling program. In 2010, the department lost over $612,000 on the effort. The 2011 budget left room for a program loss of about $487,000. However, Gedert noted that the actual results from 2011 would bring in roughly $790,000. Solid Waste’s 2012 budget calls for over $1.1 million in profits.


The current numbers reflect a short-term recycling contract between the city and TDS. The Austin City Council recently signed-off on a long-term deal that will split the residential single-stream agreement between that firm and Balcones Recycling. That arrangement is set to begin in October of 2012.

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