Bakersfield residents could see their refuse and recycling rates go up later this year.
The City of Bakersfield is proposing to increase the rates by 3.5 percent for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which starts July 1, to combat increasing costs and revenue losses. The annual cost for single-family homes would jump from $200 to $207 annually.
Commercial rates would also go up 3.5 percent, as well, if the increases are approved.
Public Works Director Nick Fidler said one of the reasons why the city is pursuing an increase is that compensation for hauling contractors fluctuates annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The cost to use the contractors is expected to go up 3.5 percent later this year.
Fidler said the city collects 50 percent of Bakersfield refuse while the contractors collect the other 50 percent.
Besides the hauling prices, the city is also struggling to make a profit on some of the recyclables it collects. Historically, Fidler said the city sold plastic, paper, aluminum and other kinds of recyclables to local processors who then sold them to China.
When demand was high, the materials could net up to $65 per ton. Over the past few years, however, global demand has dwindled as supply has stayed strong. Late last year, Fidler said China stopped buying any recyclables because they now have as much as they need for the time being. Since then, the materials have been sold to companies across the country with more stringent criteria for what they take in.
“They now have to be more sorted, cleaned and refined compared to what we gave to China,” he said. “China would buy the materials regardless of condition.”
With the value of recycled material now into the negatives, the city is losing money. Fidler said it can cost the city up to $25 a ton to get rid of the materials.
Solid Waste Director Kevin Barnes said the city typically handles 12,000 tons of recycled material each year, about 1,000 per month. If the city pays $25 a ton for the year, that would come out to a cost of $300,000.
Barnes said the public can do its part to help the reduce some of the city’s costs, such as through keeping recyclables as clean as possible.
“If people can stick to the allowed list of materials and not put other things in [the recycling can], that reduces the cost of sorting and helps the bottom line for everybody,” he said. “We don’t want to raise rates unless we have to.”
Although residents could be paying more for waste services later this year, Fidler said the current rate is the lowest in the state. In a study the city conducted last year of 36 cities, Bakersfield ranked the lowest. Fresno, which is the most comparable to Bakersfield, has a rate of $396 per year.
Oakland was the most expensive city in the study with a rate of $1,798.
“We’ve been able to keep our rates low because we’re very efficient at what we do,” Fidler said.
Notices will be mailed to property owners in April about the proposed increase, the city said. A public hearing on the matter will be held on June 6.
In related matters, the city said the 2018-19 fiscal year will be the last of a planned five-year increase in sewer rates for commercial customers whose water consumption exceeds the normal amount. Rates will be increased by 3.56 percent.
The city said there are no plans to increase the flat sewer rates for commercial or residential customers next year.
Commercial properties subject to surcharge rates made up less than half of total commercial customers, the city said.