Farmersville proposes rate increase on city trash

Compliance with state law and annual rate increase with Mid Valley Disposal reasons for hike in ratepayer bill

FARMERSVILLE – Residents of Farmersville are facing a hike in their trash utility bill, after city council moved forward with the proposed rate increases, the approval of a contract amendment with Mid Valley Disposal (MVD) and a timeline for the Prop. 218 hearing process.

In accordance with state law, residents will be given an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter. Prop. 218 allows for a protest hearing—tentatively scheduled for April 12—for which notices will be going out to residents and customers. A 50%-and-1 collection of Farmersville ratepayers signatures is required to overturn the proposed rate increase.

The rate increases bring Farmersville’s current single family unit monthly trash rate from $22.63 to $28.44 by July 2025 through yearly increases of under $1.50, totalling a little more than a 20% increase over a five-year period. The rates are identical for multi-family units and small businesses, with additional can rates going from the current $14.71/month to $18.72/month by July 2025.

Farmersville city councilman Greg Gomez said it’s never easy to raise any utility rates, especially in light of the additional burden it places on families during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The bottom line is that we have to look out for the fiscal well being of the city,” Gomez said. “That’s why we got elected, in order to make those tough decisions.”

Gomez said the city’s enterprise fund for trash service has been losing funding for quite some time already. The annual percentage increase was included in the city’s agreement with MVD, but lacks a mechanism that passes that increase along to the ratepayers.

“And so it’s necessary every so often, to kind of true that up in order to keep that fund solvent,” Gomez said. “So that’s what brings us to this point of having to raise trash rates.”

The city’s contract amendment with MVD redirects phone traffic with service requests and inquiries directly to MVD, rather than the city fulfilling the role of middleman between the customer and MVD. This comes as a result of SB 1383—signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016—which mandates achieving a 50% reduction in the level of statewide disposal of organic waste by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025.

Steve Huntley, director of finance and administration for the City of Farmersville, said MVD is much better prepared to help customers rather than city hall staff that are trained for financial functions, and aren’t ideally the people that should be fielding questions about specific recycling and solid waste compliance and program questions.

“Mid Valley has been preparing for these changes for years. They are the experts in this field and are well equipped to meet the new State mandates,” Huntley said. “Several new programs and education efforts will need to be initiated and the City will work closely with Mid Valley to make sure it complies with the new state law.”

Potential programs to meet SB 1383—for which the state might start handing out noncompliance fines as early as 2022—identified in the city staff report are mandatory food waste collection programs, procure compost or renewable fuel from recycled green waste and food waste, standardized labeling of containers and more robust outreach and education requirements.

Gomez said implementing these programs to meet state mandates puts the city in a tough position.

The state issues these mandates, which really don’t come with any additional funding,” Gomez said. “And so we find ourselves in a position where the trash hauler passes the cost along to the city, and then the city is put in a situation where they have to pass on the cost to the ratepayer. In the end, it’s unfortunate that that’s the way things happen.”

Funding may be tough to obtain for Farmersville, which lacks any infrastructure for solid waste, but there are state funding sources available to meet the needs of SB 1383, primarily through cap-and-trade grants for organics recycling and edible food recovery infrastructure.

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