First it was recycling. Now fuel costs are raising garbage rates in Stanislaus County

Modesto Bee
·3 min read

Garbage customers in unincorporated areas of Stanislaus County are going to see another rate increase.

Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved increases to the base garbage rates, just months after a state bill resulted in skyrocketing increases for residential customers. The first rate increases, driven by Senate Bill 1383, jacked up monthly bills by anywhere from $13 to $30 a month starting in January or March.

The huge jump was part of a state recycling program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting organic wastes from landfills.

County supervisors Tuesday approved an annual change to the base garbage rate based on costs of operating the service, such as fuel and labor. Most everyone knows fuel is a big cost for consumers right now, and garbage haulers are not immune as their trucks pick up waste and recyclables in the county.

Effective July 1, the garbage rates will increase for residential customers between 3.6% and 5%, depending on the franchise area and type of residential service.

County staff said that garbage haulers are losing money because of the high costs for diesel.

The higher charges will affect people in Salida, Keyes, Denair, Empire, Knights Ferry, Hickman, La Grange, Grayson and unincorporated pockets of Turlock. Those customers are variously served by Bertolotti Disposal, Gilton Solid Waste or Turlock Scavenger.

About 31% of residential customers were exempt from the SB 1383 increases this year. They will see a straight 5% increase in their monthly bills. The same goes for commercial customers who were exempt from the state recycling bill. The commercial customers that are subject to SB 1383 will see increases around 4.4%.

The charge for a drop box for individual cleanups or projects is also going up 5%. The average hauling rate for a drop box will be $234, up from an average of $223.

According to the county, residential customers served by Bertolotti Disposal will pay a $45.70 monthly rate, up from $43.90. The new monthly rates for Gilton Solid Waste customers will be $37.39, and the cost will be $53.87 and $55.59 for Turlock Scavenger customers in areas 3 and 4, respectively.

Timing is bad for customers

Board Chairman Terry Withrow said the timing for the rate hikes is unfortunate. He noted the annual changes to the base garbage rate usually are minor adjustments.

“These are mandates that come down from the state to put us in this spot.” Withrow said.

Steve Holloway, general manager of Bertolotti Disposal, said Tuesday that the company’s diesel costs are up 40% to 45%. He noted that garbage hauling rates are adjusted for fuel costs quarterly in the city of Modesto.

“It is something we are all going through,” Holloway said of the fuel costs. He expected more rate increases in this time of inflation, as haulers deal with high labor costs and supply chain issues that delay delivery of truck parts.

“It is better to do small increases annually than come back in three or four years with a 20% increase,” Holloway said.

The county has a policy of making annual adjustments to garbage rates based on consumer price indices in four years of a five-year cycle. A detailed cost study is done in the fifth year. If diesel prices fall, the next annual adjustment could reflect that.

The consumer price indices called for a residential rate increase between 6.8% and 7% this year, but county policy prohibits more than a 5% change in a single year.