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Garbage collection fees for Sarasota will increase 42% over three years

Written by on Saturday, September 2, 2023

Garbage fees are spiking throughout this region, but there’s no clear evidence to suggest that Sarasota is producing more trash. What’s going on?

By Sophia Brown

Original Air Date: September 1, 2023

 

Official Transcript

Johannes Werner: Garbage fees are spiking throughout this region. What’s going on? Sophia Brown is looking for answers.

Host: [Sound effect of a garbage truck]

That’s the sound of all residents of the city of Sarasota paying $4.42 more starting next month for curbside collection of their garbage, recycling and yard waste. Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad. After all, these fees have been rising for years. But there’s more: for the next fiscal year, the fee is going to increase by $4.42 every month.

Here are some of the numbers: right now, Sarasota residents pay $24.55 for one month of garbage collection service. Starting October 1st, they’ll pay $28.97. By November, they’ll be paying $33.39, then $37.81 the month after that, and that price is even higher for those who have more than three bins out each week, or who get their garbage picked up twice a week instead of just once.

The Sarasota City Commission voted 4-1 on August 21st to approve this increase as part of Public Works Director Doug Jeffcoat’s three-year plan to raise the fees that the city’s Solid Waste Department charges. Year one has a rate hike of 18%, followed by a 12% increase on October 1st, 2024, and then a 4% increase for year three on October 1st, 2025. This means that for the 2024-25 fiscal year, the fee per month will be $32.45, which will climb to $35.05 per month the year after that, which amounts to approximately an overall 42% increase in just three years.

This is not the only garbage fee hike in the region. Sarasota County is expected to vote soon on their own increase of 5% for residential and commercial waste. And Manatee County also voted this past week for a 60% hike from $14.33 per month to $23.65 per month for residential waste. So why is this happening?

Doug Jeffcoat did not respond to WSLR News’s request for comment, but the city of Sarasota General Communications Manager Jan Thornburg provided WSLR News with the supporting materials that he presented to the City Commission. Jeffcoat cited a number of reasons that this fee needs to go up: inflation, supply chain delays, increased fuel costs.

One of the main reasons is that the county landfill, which the city of Sarasota depends on, is increasing its own tipping fees. According to Jeffcoat, in 2018, the city paid $354 per load hauled by the truck from the city’s transfer station to the county landfill. This year, that same service has cost $387. The supporting documents did not disclose whether the amounts of garbage produced in the city are rising.

The cost of recycling has gone up too. In 2018, the fee to process one ton of recyclables was $80. Now, it’s close to $100. There is no explanation in the supporting documents for the 25% increase in four years.

And in terms of revenue, during the 2021-22 fiscal year, the city received received more than $400,000. But this year, that amount is expected to drop to half of that.

The aging trucks used by the Solid Waste Department and their repairs are also part of the reason these fees are rising. Maintenance for these trucks is expected to increase by $478,000 this year, and nearly all of these trucks are over five years old, with one-third being over 10 years old.

City Commissioner Eric Arroyo was the one dissenting vote for this fee increase, and stated during the meeting that merging the city’s Solid Waste Department with the county would be the less expensive option for residents. But Vice Mayor Liz Alpert pushed back, saying that the fee is a “user fee,” and that residents who don’t want to use the service don’t have to pay for it.

This has been Sophia Brown reporting for WSLR News.

 

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