The City of Woodlake is proposing a rate increase to its refuse services starting 2019
By Stephanie Barraza
Special to The Sun-Gazette
WOODLAKE – Woodlake residents and businesses may see a bump in their garbage bill starting early next year.
As part of the city’s contract with local waste management and recycling company Mid-Valley Disposal, the City of Woodlake is proposing to increase the rates of its trash services from its current rate of $22.25 to the projected rate of $24.45 for its residential and commercial customers starting in March 2019.
As specified in their agenda item during their Oct. 22 city council meeting, the rate would increase each year for the following five years, but the modified rates will not be more than the funds required to provide adequate service to Woodlake customers. This will also include new rates for recycle and organics collection for customers that are impacted.
According to Woodlake’s Community Services Director Jason Waters, the increase in the utility is due to increase in the CPI, or consumer price index, that their refuse provider must account for.
“Like many cities, Woodlake contracts out their refuse services,” said Waters. “In our agreement with Mid Valley, they have what is essentially a cost of living increase, so over time, it would cost them more money to provide this service and then that charge is passed on to us.”
The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI rose 2.3 percent from September 2017 to September 2018, not seasonally adjusted.“We increase it by 3 percent to cover those increases. Because of the type of funds that they are, they will be used for providing that service.”
Waters says it has been about 2 or 3 years since the last time Woodlake had increased its rates on refuse services.
“The reason for the increase is because we didn’t charge any increases for a number of years, that’s why it’s a $2.20 jump. [Mid Valley] is making up for the past CPI they weren’t recovering from,” Waters added.
The city will be initiating the Proposition 218 process that allows ratepayers to protest the planned increase starting with a public hearing tentatively set for January 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. If the council approves the rate increase, the rate would go into affect on March 1, 2019.
“By law, anytime you increase a utility, like water or trash services, you have to allow residents to protest it,” said Waters.
Those who wish to protest the increase must submit a written protest addressed to the City Clerk in person or by mail to 350 N. Valencia, Woodlake CA 93286. Written protests must be received to the city clerk by the end of the hearing.
Woodlake’s last Prop 218 came when the City needed to increase water rates to pay off a $4 million project for water meters. A third of the project was funded by a United States Department of Agriculture grant, while the rest was funded by a USDA loan. The move was a fundamental shift away from the flat monthly rate residents were charged for water.
After the 45-day protest period and public hearing there were fewer than 100 formally lodged protests. The amount needed to stop the increase from taking effect is 50 percent plus one of Woodlake property owners.
Strong protest and little action at the eleventh hour seems to be the norm for Prop 218 hearings.
Last September the Farmersville City Council held their Prop 218 hearing over water rates. It was the last chance residents had the opportunity to voice their opinion over a water rate increase. Resident Francisca Santillen said utilities were too high as they were and farm workers who have an inconsistent income have trouble making ends meet. By the time the hearing had concluded the total amount of protests were only 46.
City manager John Jansons at the time said between 1,200 and 1,400 property owners would have had to protest the increase in order to keep the council from voting on it. He added then the lack of response was not due to a lack of effort by the City.
Per a requirement Jansons and the City reached out to all property owners in the city. He even hit some of them twice in the required 45 day period at the start of the process. They sent the letters out in both English and Spanish and formatted the letters so all anyone had to do was mark and “X” where they were to respond. Jansons looked at the lack of response as an acceptance by the community of the increasing rate.
Farmersville went as far as to hold a public meeting to discuss issues around the city, including the water rate increase. And despite the amount of marketing the meeting was poorly attended. Jansons said he was befuddled that nobody had come.