SIERRA VISTA — A proposal to raise refuse service fees in the city remains tabled and may be accompanied in the future by a plan to increase trash pickup rates, as city officials continue to look for a way to stop the Refuse Enterprise Fund from operating in the red.
City Manager Chuck Potucek told city council members on Tuesday at a work session that he recommends holding the proposal to raise refuse service fees for now, so that he and his staff can come up with a plan that also could include a trash pickup rate hike.
That means a vote on the issue won’t take place at Thursday’s council meeting.
Council members also learned that the city’s compost equipment is beginning to wear out, but could likely last until 2024. But because the Refuse Enterprise Fund is operating in the red, “there’s not enough money — if any at all — to buy any new equipment,” warned Deputy City Manager Victoria Yarbrough.
At a recent work session, Public Works Director Sharon Flissar told the City Council that revenues garnered by the current fee schedule for such services are not enough to sustain the financial needs of the Refuse Enterprise Fund. Flissar said that the fund is losing $150,000 annually in operating costs alone. Deputy City Manager Victoria Yarbrough said overall, the fund lost $439,507 in 2019.
A fee hike was proposed for the refuse services, but Councilwoman Carolyn Umphrey asked that the item be tabled last month because she thought the fee increase was too high. Umphrey also said she wanted staff to better explain how raising fees would place the Refuse Enterprise Fund in the black.
“At the next work session I’d like to present to you a fee increase proposal with a rate increase and show you exactly what those numbers are going to mean for the fund,” Potucek said Tuesday, referring to the Refuse Enterprise Fund. “...and try to project what that means to the fund over the next couple of years.”
Fees and rates are different. Fees are paid one time by users of certain municipal services. Not all residents partake of those services. Rates are monthly bills paid by all residents for a municipal service provided to everyone.
Flissar said the fees would be increased only for people who use the city’s refuse services. Those services include the use of residential dumpsters, compost fees and special pick-ups for yard and non-yard waste.
At the session Tuesday, Councilwoman Christine Wolfe said she had gotten complaints about some of the proposed refuse service fee increases.
Councilwoman Gwen Calhoun however, said that if increasing rates would improve living in the community, then she’s for it.
“I personally think if we need to increase rates for all of us, to make all of our living in this community better, I’m OK with that,” she said.