Trash collection rates in Huntington Beach will rise steadily over the next couple of years after the City Council voted Monday night in favor of a plan intended to help balance the city's refuse fund.
The council voted 6-1, with Councilman Erik Peterson dissenting, to approve a series of rate increases that start July 1 and end two years later. The increases coincide with increases in what Republic Services — formerly Rainbow Environmental Services — charges the city for collection.
The refuse fund, which the city uses for trash-related services, has not kept pace with expenses and has amassed a deficit of $565,000 since a trash collection rate increase wasn't approved in 2011, according to a city staff report.
Peterson said he felt there could be a better way to balance the fund than raising rates.
Under the approved plan, rates would increase from $19.61 to $19.81 per month per household on July 1, followed by a hike of 76 cents per month on Nov. 1.
Increases of 20 cents per month would be implemented in July 2018 and 2019.
Staff recommended the phased increases to help mitigate the effect on ratepayers.
The rate plan will provide about $350,000 in annual revenue to the refuse fund, the report states.
Many residents sent letters to the city opposing the rate hikes.
Resident and activist Victor Valladares said at Monday's meeting that Huntington Beach residents pay among the highest rates in Orange County, which he called outrageous and unfair. It puts a strain on people living on fixed incomes, he said.
This year's rate increases will bring the monthly charge to $20.57, which will rank seventh-highest among Orange County's 34 cities and fifth-highest among the 11 cities that use Republic, according to a chart released by the city.
Councilwoman Lyn Semeta noted the dozens of opposition letters but said the rate hikes are necessary.
"I want to make it clear that we don't have a choice whether this is going to increase or not," Semeta said.
If the rate increases were not approved, the staff report says, the council would be asked to allocate $565,000 from the city general fund to balance the refuse fund.
The council voted unanimously May 15 to form a committee to review the city's waste management agreement in hopes of amending an "undesirable" contract that has automatic renewals instead of a bidding process.
Semeta said the rate situation "drives home" the importance of the city looking into the Republic contract.
Peterson and Semeta said in a statement last month that Huntington Beach residents generally pay a higher rate than other Republic customers countywide and that they hope to rectify that with better terms and pricing.
Council discusses energy program
Also Monday, the council considered entering a non-disclosure agreement with Southern California Edison to look into a community choice aggregation, which can provide cities control over electricity rates and efficiency programs, a city staff report says.
A CCA is a program for cities to buy or generate electricity for residents, according to Pacific Gas and Electric.
Several Huntington Beach council members felt they need more information on the concept, and the panel voted unanimously to hold a study session soon to discuss the program's pros and cons.
Peterson said he has a problem with the government being in charge of the city's energy program.
Semeta and Councilwoman Jill Hardy said they need more information.
The council would have to enter a non-disclosure agreement with Edison to obtain customer energy use data to see if a CCA would be economically viable for the city, according to the report.
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Tustin, Lake Forest, Orange and Garden Grove are looking into the program, the report says.