Livingston utility bill increase could pay for recycling service

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 6, 2013 

— Residents could soon see a slight increase in their utility bills.

Late last week, the city sent out notices about Proposition 218, which lays the groundwork for rate increases.

The notices were sent to property owners and tenants, who have the option of protesting the increases. If more than 50 percent protest, a rate hike would be rejected.

But Councilman Jim Soria said that since the increases are small, he doesn't expect a pushback from the public.

Typical monthly bills would increase to $23.79 a month from $22.04 a month, according to the notices sent to residents. In 2014, the rates would jump to $26.49 a month.

"I think it's a fair increase," Soria said.

Most residents now have one garbage can, but no recycling or green waste cans, Soria said. With the new system, users would get a green waste can that they could put some recyclables in, such as cardboard and paper.

"It gives you more room to take advantage of your regular garbage can," said Soria, who added that as a resident, he prefers the new system.

Since 1986, Livingston has contracted with Gilton Solid Waste Management. That agreement included periodic extensions but was up at the end of last year. In November, the City Council selected the company again, and management is negotiating the terms of a new contract.

City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez said May 3 is the earliest date the increases can be implemented.

Ramirez said the increases will help reduce the $392,000 deficit in the sanitation enterprise fund, provide three months of reserve and pay for the services.

Some of the deficit was reduced through staff attrition, but officials said a moderate rate increase was needed.

Hansford Economic Consulting did a rate analysis for the city by examining several factors, such as evaluating service needs, debt service, deficit recovery, reserves and maintenance costs necessary to provide the city with adequate garbage services, according to city documents.

A public hearing on the proposed rates has been set for March 19 at the City Council Chambers, according to the notice sent to residents.

If the council votes to waive the first reading and introduce the ordinance implementing the new rates, the second reading and possible adoption of the ordinance would be voted on by the council April 2.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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