By Katie Dahlstrom
Clinton City Council members moved forward with a $1.39 increase for solid waste customers’ monthly bills as the city strives for financial solvency in its solid waste fund.
The increase would bring the monthly cost for a resident who uses the city’s solid waste service from $14.50 to $15.89, which means paying an additional $16.68 a year.
Those residents who do not use the city’s solid waste system will see an increase in their monthly fee from $9.25 to $9.67, or an extra $5.04 a year.
During their committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night, council members moved the increase to their next regular council meeting for approval. Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman was the only council member to vote ‘no’ on the increases.
City Administrator Jessica Kinser explained that although the city is working with consultant Springsted to create a request for proposal for solid waste services, action needs to be taken in order to recover the solid waste fund from its $1.8 million deficit.
“Regardless of what happens with that process, our rates are not set at where they need to be to cover our costs and recover some of the money that we don’t have,” Kinser said.
Nick Dragisich with Springsted broke down what the city would need to increase its fees to in fiscal year 2014 in order to fund its solid waste services. The rates would increase from $5.25 to $6.22 for solid waste, and from $9.25 to $9.67 for the city service fee, which covers recycling, yard waste, large item pickup and the Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency fee.
Dragisich isolated the costs of the pieces of the city service fee to $4.55 for recycling, $2.26 for yard waste, 37 cents for large-item pickup and $2.49 for the CCASWA fee. Kinser clarified that customers will not see individual charges for solid waste, yard waste and the other items on their bills or be able to opt out of these costs as it will remain one fee.
“The purpose of engaging Springsted was to have them perform a cost-of-service study. We’ve never had it broken out what that $9.25 really was. By them breaking it out into components of that flat fee does not mean it will be individually charged. It is still one fee that will increase to $9.67 versus $9.25,” Kinser said.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann used the example of a relative who lives in a small town in central Illinois and pays $17.50 a month for solid waste alone to suggest the city’s rates are not as high as others and should be raised to meet the needs of the solid waste program.
“We haven’t ever charged what we should because we never knew what we should charge,” Hermann said. “It’s hard for people to understand that because they’ve paid so little for so long, but it certainly hasn’t hurt the city and now it’s hurting them because all of the sudden they have to pay more than they’ve ever been used to paying.”
At-large Councilman John Rowland agreed with Hermann regarding the city’s current solid waste charges being too low to support the solid waste system, calling the increase a “drop in the bucket.”
Dragisich’s figures, which Kinser presented, call for rate increases in future years, ultimately bringing the cost for a solid waste customers to $22.42 by 2019, the year the city hopes to have a positive cash balance in the solid waste fund. However, council members have voiced opposition to increasing the fees as the only means to shore up the fund.
City officials are scheduling a meeting with officials from Springsted to draft the request for proposal that will be open for both the city and private solid waste companies to answer.