News In Brief: City Council Votes to Raise Fees for Refuse Collection

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After a year and a half of declining revenues and rising costs for the city's refuse fund, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to increase city fees for residential and commercial refuse collection by 1.72 percent Tuesday.

The increase is expected to generate an additional $370,000 for the cash-strapped city, which is facing a $16.2 million overall budget deficit for the next fiscal year.

The refuse fund operates as an enterprise fund separate from the city's general fund, meaning it is self-supported by resident and commercial fees, among other fees. The refuse fund itself has developed a deficit, projected to total $3.9 million in the current fiscal year.

At the meeting, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said the Public Works Department should consider other cost-cutting measures such as reducing overtime for garbage truck drivers and possibly consolidating routes. With the city producing a third as much trash as it did in the 1990s, routes should be consolidated to fill all the city's garbage trucks, he said.

"Our trucks are either empty or half full, at best," he said. "We should be able to consolidate some routes, if not fill up the trucks."

Claudette Ford, director of the department, said the department has recently purchased new software to assess the productivity of routes with the aim of consolidating at least three routes.

"Our routes have been balanced as best they could internally by staff, but now we are now using a fairly sophisticated piece of software that will help us get ... (a) more objective view and get the kind of efficiencies we know we can get," she said at the meeting.

The fee increase will go into effect July 1. The fee for a residential 20-gallon trash container will increase from $16.94 to $17.93, while the weekly collection fee for a 20-gallon container will rise from $16.94 to $17.45.

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