The Madera County Board of Supervisors is talking about raising trash collection fees by 12% to raise about $1.1 million dollars annually. Depending where you live that is an extra $29 to $75 a year for residential customers at minimum service rates. Commercial customers will pay significantly more.
The current rate at the county owned landfill is $22.28 a ton and is proposed to increase to $40 a ton, an 80% increase, but wait, they are only going to raise it for the public, self-hauler and franchise haulers only. The rate would be unchanged for the incorporated cities of Chowchilla, Madera and Fresno.
Unfair. Why would we make our citizens pay more than the incorporated cities? Making the rate higher may cause Fresno to keep their trash and send it to Kerman in Fresno County. The landfill in Kerman charges $22.50 a ton. It does not make sense that we should endeavor to attract more trash, especially from other counties. All that does is fill up our landfill faster which costs us more money sooner.
The money is supposed to be for the county owned landfill site operations. The proposal is to raise the “tipping fee,” the fee charged per ton of trash deposited into the landfill, which takes trash from the public, from the two franchise haulers and from cities inside and outside our county.
This expense is built into the service rate you pay EMADCO (mountain franchise) and Red Rock Disposal (Valley franchise). The franchise contracts provides for an adjustment should the tipping fee change. The Board of Supervisors can quietly raise the fee and your bill goes up.
The landfill is operated by Red Rock Disposal under a contract with the county whereby Red Rock gets about $12 a ton for operations. The balance, about $10 a ton is kept by the county to offset costs including capital cost for the landfill, a reserve fund to deal with the liner and sealing the landfill when full, dealing with regulations and to recover administrative fees incurred by the county. Currently this income is about $1.6 million. They claim this is not enough money.
State public resource code (code 41901) allows the county to charge for the total cost of operations but to only recover the “actual” amount of the cost. When the county proposes to charge or change a fee an audit must take place to disclose the cost of the operation; expenses and income and if any money is added by the general fund. Data and notice is required to be given to the public before any vote takes place (code 66016). In other words, the county is prohibited by law from making any money from the waste management process.
On top of the 12% increase the county will also get another 6% of the increase in the form of franchise tax fees. The county is skimming off an estimated $650,000 a year in franchise fees at 6% of your total bill. This money is going into the general fund, not to offset cost of the waste management program. I believe this is in direct violation of the State Public Resource code.
The 12% fee is unfair. If it is for the landfill and is measured by the ton, then the fee should be the same for everyone. A ton of trash generated in the mountains should cost the same as a ton generated in the Valley. But our service rates are different due to the collection cost related to distance and service levels. Tacking on a percentage is just simply wrong and unfair. If a rate increase is justified then it should be by customer, the same for everyone across the entire county.
The county must disclose all the numbers related to trash. From the approximately $1.6 million it gets from the landfill, how much is for administrative costs? Remember the county contracts all services so there is no real staff, just some oversight. The franchise fees must be put back into the equation. Let’s see a real audit of all the costs before the county asks us to pay more.
Marc Sobel, Oakhurst
Marc Sobel has announced his candidacy for District 5 Supervisor, currently held by Tom Wheeler.