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Garbage rates set to go higher in Belmont
September 25, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Garbage rates will increase 14.22 percent for Belmont residents next year if the council approves the rate increase and enough residents do not oppose it through a Proposition 218 hearing.

Last year, city residents faced up to a 29 percent increase for 2012 but the council agreed to lower it to 11.6 percent after negotiating with Recology to spread the rate increase over several years.

Recology is also due a one-time migration recovery surcharge of $227,918 from Belmont residents for switching to smaller garbage cans the past year.  

The proposal the council approved last year called for amending the city’s contract with Recology to spread out the migration recovery surcharge due in 2012 to the years 2013 through 2016, with interest at prime plus 1 percent.

Belmont residents paid less in 2012 for garbage service but will pay more overall through 2016, as the council voted in December 2011 to extend its residents’ current debt to Recology over the course of four years.

By extending the debt, Belmont residents will eventually pay about $80,000 more for the service than they would have paid if the council approved a proposed 22.26 percent rate increase in 2011.

Much of the increase is related to customers not paying the migration surcharge last year, Councilman Warren Lieberman said.

"My guess is we’ve deferred enough,” Lieberman said about spreading last year’s rate increase over several years.

The 14.22 percent hike seems high to Lieberman but he is not sure if the city can get away from approving the increase.

The city could consider a selective rate increase, he said, where some customers pay a higher percentage for garbage service than others.

This year, Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach told the Daily Journal she would not vote for a 14.22 percent increase "unless we are forced to.”

She encouraged city residents last year to fill out Proposition 218 notifications to oppose the increase. More than half of city residents would have had to protest the hike to prevent it from taking effect but the city only got a small percentage of the protests last year.

Escalating fees, Feierbach said, are increasingly making the Bay Area "a very expensive place to live in.”

The 14.22 percent increase is comprised of a 5.9 percent consumer price index adjustment; 3.49 percent for migration adjustment from 2012; and 4.83 percent in a migration recovery surcharge of 2012.

The average customer’s bill for a resident with a 20-gallon trash can will go up from the current $16.93 a month to $19.34 a month next year, if the rate increase goes into effect.

For the 32-gallon can, the rate will jump from the current $28.03 a month to $32.02 a month next year.

A customer with the larger 96-gallon trash can will see the rates rise from the current $99.86 a month to $114.06 a month next year.

In 2011, the 20-gallon can cost $15.17 a month and the 96-gallon can cost $89.48 a month.

Compared to other cities, Belmont’s rate for the 32-gallon can at $28.03 a month currently ranks above Burlingame at $23.85 a month; Foster City at $18.92 a month; Menlo Park at $23.40 a month; and San Carlos at $27.69 a month. It is lower, however, than in Hillsborough and Atherton where residents pay more than $50 a month for the 32-gallon can.

Rates have increased dramatically as Recology customers have migrated from larger cans to smaller 32- and 20-gallon cans in the past two years. The city’s progressive rate structure awards Belmont residents for recycling more by charging them much less for the smaller cans compared to residents or commercial customers who use the larger cans.

Belmont held a Proposition 218 public hearing in November 2011 to allow residents to protest the rates but less than 300 protests were received. The city has about 7,000 garbage customers and more than half of them would have needed to protest the then proposed 22.26 percent increase. The same will be true for this year’s proposed 14.22 percent increase.


The Belmont City Council meets 7:30 p.m., tonight, City Hall, 1 Twin Pines Lane, Belmont.


Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.


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