City council to consider new fee to fill refuse fund deficit

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NOVEMBER 06, 2011

The Berkeley City Council will discuss a proposal Tuesday night that would implement a new fee to help reduce the city’s $1.3 million refuse fund deficit for the 2012 fiscal year.

At present, various trash collecting firms pay franchise fees — a percentage of the revenue they generate from rubbish collection within Berkeley — that account for between $875,000 and $1 million annually for the city’s Clean City Program, an effort that allows the city to adhere to state-mandated street sweeping guidelines.

The proposal would reallocate this money to fill the deficit from the city’s refuse fund — used to finance refuse collection and solid waste disposal services — and implement a new regulatory fee that would fund the Clean City Program in the same capacity.

“We would like the franchise fees reinstalled to feed directly back into the Refuse Fund,” said Nashua Kalil, chair of the Zero Waste Commission, which authored the proposal and makes recommendations to the council regarding waste policy and goals. “The whole point is to try and get our Refuse Fund to a sustainable level … we have to streamline and restructure.”

Once the money returns to the Refuse Fund, the commission recommends that 45 percent of the capital provided by the franchise fees should be used to expand recycling education and outreach activities, hire new staff members and conduct studies to help the city reach its intended zero-waste goals by the year 2020.

Furthermore, the proposal recommends that 15 percent of the income be used to help fund the city’s Green Waste Program and 15 percent be apportioned to bolster recycling services. The final 25 percent would be utilized to pay the debt service with the remainder being kept in reserves.

According to Kalil, the money that is diverted from the Clean City Program would be supplemented by the proposed regulatory fee.

However, it is unclear who exactly would pay those regulatory fees, according to City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. He said that if council proceeds with the proposal, city staff would make that decision, and it would be presented to City Council for further consideration at a future date.

“I strongly support the commission’s proposal,” he said. “I think the recommendation is a step in the right direction.”

Berkeley is one of only six cities in the state with a waste management division, which allows for greater flexibility in decision making, according to Arreguin.

“It ensures the waste management program is being run in a way that meets Berkeley’s zero-waste goals,” Arreguin said.

In the past, the city has briefly considered whether to renew the franchise fees in the long-term but has not had a full discussion of the topic, according to Arreguin.

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NOVEMBER 06, 2011