SIERRA VISTA — The fees some residents pay for refuse services such as dumpster rentals will be higher next year, and even though rates for refuse services are also set to increase by 15 percent, the public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed hike over the next 30 days, the City Council said Thursday.

Residents also will have an opportunity to chime in on whether the city should privatize recycling services. By doing so, the city could save an additional $140,000, the City Council was told this week.

Those savings, as well as the additional revenue that would be generated by the increases in refuse fees and rates, are designed to boost the city’s Refuse Enterprise Fund. The latter has been bleeding money for the last four years, leaving the fund in the red.

The increase in refuse service fees takes hold next month, while the hike in refuse service rates doesn’t take effect until March, city officials said. Once that occurs, the increases could generate over $765,000 in revenues, city officials said. That would be enough to make up for losses in both fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

Fees and rates are different. Fees are paid only by people who use certain services. Rates determine the monthly bill all residents pay for refuse services.

As for privatizing the city’s recycling services, one of the savings would include not having to pay employees at the city’s recycling center because the service would be handled by a private vendor. City Manager Chuck Potucek said at least two companies have expressed an interest in taking over the recycling for the city.

A summary presented to council members earlier this week outlines the Enterprise Refuse Fund issue: “The Refuse Fund has been operating at a deficit for the past four years due to environmental factors, such as changes to state laws regarding commercial refuse operations. In fiscal year 2017, the City Council approved a 15 percent rate increase that helped decrease the annual loss in the fund.

“Unfortunately, additional fee and rate increases are needed to make the fund whole. Then proposed fee and 15 percent rate increase would generate an estimated $767,626 in revenues that would cover both FY19 and FY20 losses.

By privatizing the recycling operations, the city would save an estimated $140,000 per year.

“The Green Waste program offers significant benefits to the system, especially the savings the system generated by diverting green waste from the landfill. Without the program, an estimated 25 to 30 percent rate increase would be required to make the fund whole due to the increased green waste landfill costs.”

The issue of raising refuse service fees was tabled for several weeks after two council members voiced concerns that the increases were too steep. Public Works Director Sharon Flissar recently said that because of that concern city officials had to find another way to help put the Refuse Enterprise Fund back on track. So, a rate hike was proposed, as well.

Potucek also recently told council members that refuse service rates could remain the same, but eventually that would have to have to change, and when it did, the increase could be even higher.

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, most council members praised the staff for coming up with a solution to help place the Enterprise Refuse Fund back in the black.

“We have really taken our time and asked a lot of questions,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Gray. “With the fees, it was a really deep dive we had to take.”

Mayor Rick Mueller said city officials looked at “all aspects” of the Enterprise Refuse Fund: “We are focused on providing the best service for the lowest cost. I’m in favor of moving ahead.”

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