The Daily Californian Online

City Council Approves Monthly Charge for Recycling Services

By Alisha Azevedo
Contributing Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Category: News > City > City Council

The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass a new diversion fee that will charge residential and commercial customers $3.35 per month in recycling costs.

Residents currently pay refuse rates based on the size of their waste containers, but starting Thursday they will begin paying for recycling services.

Though the city's Department of Public Works has been able to close a projected $2.5 million deficit this year, officials say the new fee is necessary to cover additional costs for the next year.

The fee is expected to generate about $989,000 in new revenue toward covering the $1.4 million increase in costs for the city's recycling program, leaving a deficit of $440,000 to be closed by cutting other costs.

Cost-cutting measures enacted this year - including deferring $1.3 million in capital projects, leaving job vacancies empty and consolidating trash pick-up lines - have turned the $2.5 million deficit into a $682,000 surplus according to Claudette Ford, public works director.

"By being very critical of the budget, we were able to hone our projections and look at our actual costs," she said. "We feel that these were savings that were real."

Though many council members praised the progress, Councilmember Darryl Moore also advised the public works department to continue practicing frugality in the next fiscal year.

"I hear a success story," he said. "The task that is before you is to do the same thing come July 1."

Some community members, including Greg Harper, board member of the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, say the new expense is an unnecessary financial burden. Harper said before the council asks taxpayers to foot the bill, they should consider cutting city employee benefits.

"I'm not against providing services," he said. "I don't mind investing in that. But I don't like it when only a certain select group gets all of the money."

The increase in costs for the program is largely a result of renewed contracts with the Ecology Center and Community Conservation Centers, Inc., which collect and process residential and commercial recyclables. The contracts will cost the city an additional $1 million starting January 1, 2011.

The remaining $400,000 increase is due to the implementation of the split-cart program, which places recyclables in rolling enclosed carts instead of bins. The carts have been successful in reducing the poaching of recyclables in other cities, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

The fee will act as a one-year bridge and end once the city approves a new rate structure. On July 13, the council will review a proposal to hire a consultant to present fiscal recommendations for the program in December.

Councilmember Linda Maio lauded the city's overall $700,00 reduction of waste.

"We're sending off less, which is costing us less," she said. "That's pretty extraordinary."

Article Link: