San Luis Obispo County's regional waste agency is poised to more than double the fee it charges local garbage haulers—a move its leaders say is necessary to meet California's new organic waste requirements, but one that will likely drive up local garbage bills.
The increase, tentatively approved by the Integrated Waste Management Authority's (IWMA) board of directors on Feb. 9, raises the hauler fee in the county's seven cities and various unincorporated communities from 2 percent to 5.4 percent of gross receipts.
According to a budget analysis released last month, the IWMA is headed for a $1.45 million deficit in the current fiscal year—and worse in the future—if it doesn't raise the fee soon.
- Photo Courtesy Of Cold Canyon Landfill
- NEW FEES Garbage haulers bringing waste to Cold Canyon Landfill will soon pay higher fees to support the Integrated Waste Management Authority.
"Expenditures are projected to exceed available funds by the first quarter of fiscal year 2022-23 if the IWMA does not significantly increase its revenue ... or significantly lower expenditures," the report by HF&H Consultants concluded.
IWMA costs are rising due to Senate Bill 1383, a state law that places new mandates on cities and counties for organic waste diversion, including collection, education, and monitoring. Revenues are also slightly down compared to past years thanks to the SLO County Board of Supervisors' withdrawal from the agency in 2021.
"As I went through the details, the question in my mind is, am I seeing anything that might grossly overexaggerate estimates?" IWMA Interim Executive Director Paavo Ogren said at the Feb. 9 meeting. "I wasn't anticipating I'd see anything, ... that still holds true today."
The IWMA board of directors unanimously approved the fee hike, which will be finalized at its March 9 meeting. Ogren explained that the tentative vote was designed to give local garbage companies a heads up—so "the haulers know what percentage to incorporate into rate applications."
John Hamon, a Paso Robles City Council member, expressed concerns about the IWMA relying on gross receipt fees—since Paso's hauler contract includes non-trash related services, like street sweeping and parks maintenance, he said.
"I don't really feel like the IWMA should be making any percentage on our street sweeping and park services, and other things that they do," Hamon said. "There's a lot of extra fat there that the IWMA would be benefiting from."
Hamon ultimately supported the new fee after Ogren said the agency could take a look at revising it in the future to better isolate trash-related receipts. Ogren also said the IWMA may end up reducing the 5.4 percent rate.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that, over time, that number will be able to go down," Ogren said.
While IWMA leaders spent much of the past year anxious about how the Board of Supervisors' withdrawal would impact the agency's budget, the recent fiscal analysis showed a less dramatic effect.
According to the HF&H report, the IWMA lost about 6 percent of its garbage accounts after the county's exit. But the county continues to reimburse the IWMA for its hazardous waste programs—cushioning the hit. Δ