By Tina Alvey
Customer trash collection fees have remained stagnant as expenses have mounted for Ronceverte’s Sanitation Department over the past 12 years.
Deficits are now running nearly $27,000 annually, with last year’s revenue coming in at slightly under $159,000 and operational and maintenance expenses totaling around $186,000. Ronceverte last raised trash rates in 2001, according to city administrator Reba Mohler.
Council took the first step to address the imbalance during Monday’s regular meeting, unanimously passing the first reading of an ordinance that will raise trash fees across-the-board by 40 percent.
Newly-elected Mayor David Smith explained, “We’re not looking to make money; we’re just looking to break even.”
He noted council has been discussing the need for a fee hike for several years, realizing deficits in the sanitation budget were growing. But Smith said reports that were requested from an accountant who was then employed by the city were never prepared.
Council last seriously addressed the possibility of raising trash fees almost three years ago, but the discussion was fragmented. Some recommended the city close its sanitation department and contract the work out to a private hauling company, while others — including the current mayor, who was then a member of council — favored reworking the residential fee structure to tie charges to usage volume.
Questioned by residents who attended Monday’s council session, Smith acknowledged that the city’s finance committee had considered changing the structure this time around, but ultimately decided there was no cost-effective way to monitor residential usage on a bag-by-bag or can-by-can basis.
If the proposed trash fee hike wins approval following a public hearing and second reading next month, Ronceverte’s trash rates for either a single family residence or multi-family dwelling with two residences will raise from the current $15 per month to $21 per month.
Ronceverte’s commercial trash collection fees vary depending on how many cans are collected on average and how many days per week trash is scheduled for pickup from a given business. Graduated fees now range from a low of $19.49 per month for collection of the contents of one trash can once a week to a high of $148.95 per month for collection of the contents of four or more trash cans five times a week, for example.
If the rate increase is approved, commercial fees would range from a low of $27.29 per month to a high of $208.53.
Ronceverte charges some customers a commercial bulk rate, which is now $150 and would increase to $210 with the fee hike.
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