CLEWISTON -- Hendry County residents will pay more for trash removal for fiscal year 2021-2022, but not as much as they might have if not for a healthy contingency fund which will help offset costs to consumers.
County Public Works Director Shane Parker told commissioners during the HCBOCC regular meeting Sept. 14 if rates weren’t increased the budget would slip into the negative.
“You can’t stay at $235 (per residence),” he said. “There’s no way."
That is the amount residents pay per year in the county for curbside pickup, both in the southern and northern districts since 2017.
Shane asked for the residential rate to be raised to $360 for each district for the next three years which could be carried out by charging $335 for 2021-2022 and charging $373 for the next two years.
Some board members and residents thought that was too high.
Chairman Mitchell Wills asked why the rate couldn’t go up from $235 to $300, a number he said he could support.
“But to be honest this is too much of an increase to me to sit here and say I agree with this and said so in June,” when the topic first came up for discussion, Wills said. “I just think it’s too big of a bite at one time.”
Parker gave a brief history of rates, saying that in 2017 the BOCC felt going from $110.50 to $270 was going to be a significant increase, so it opted for $235. Along the way, expenses have risen including disposal rate increases from Lee County and the consumer price index, while the cost of service remained the same.
He said he expects a 5% CPI increase and fueling decks with a franchise hauler and a 15% increase from Lee County for disposal cost for the upcoming budget and expects to spend $357 per household in 2021-2022.
Wills said the numbers might change in the second year to the benefit of the county, to which Parker said then rates could be lowered the following year if expenses dropped.
Commissioner Emma Byrd asked if the county could just work with the provider another year and see what the rates would be like next year.
“You can do that,” Parker said. “I know for this year you can do $335 but I don’t know how much lower you can go … the worst case you might be at $373 (for subsequent years), the best case you could stay at $335 or somewhere in between.”
Commissioner Ramon Iglesias asked if dropping pick-up days to once per week instead of two would bring the costs down.
Parker said the savings are minimal, around $20.
Residents also complained about the increase, saying it would be difficult for those living on a fixed income to come up with the additional amount.
One resident said a $300 fee might be all right for a working person, but not for those who are retired or living on a limited income.
Another resident said the increase was not a good idea during a pandemic.
“Right now, in the time we’re in, it’s just too much,” she said.
Commissioners took the option of utilizing the $870,000 contingency fund planned for the 2021-2022 fiscal year county budget that could reduce the rates to taxpayers.
Parker estimated if the rates were $300/ residential unit there’d be $164,150 left over from the contingency fund to roll over.
Ultimately, commissioners voted to approve the rates in a 5-0 vote as follows:
Northern and southern residential curbside with curbside pickup: $303.11
Northern and southern pickup with a dumpster for residents: $37.22
Northern and southern partial hardship rate: $185.64
Northern and southern total hardship: $48.44
Northern and southern inaccessible road $257