Tell Local Government:Give Us Back our Money!Represent Our Interests!
Refuse collection bills throughout Marin are high and increase every year under franchise agreements awarded by individual local governments to private companies. You don’t get to vote on the rates. After paying a consultant to review the rate proposal, our local elected officials rubberstamp the suggested revenue hike at a perfunctory rate hearing.
How well are the elected officials representing YOUR interests? Does this process protect you? A big chunk of your refuse payment travels through your garbage collection company directly to the general fund of your local government in “franchise fees” and “road impact” fees without genuine fiscal accountability. The refuse company (e.g., Marin Sanitary Service, Recology, Bay Cities, Mill Valley Refuse) passes through the “fees” demanded by local governments for their costs supposedly incurred in this arrangement. But your local government doesn’t justify its fee demand and doesn’t perform a cost of service analysis for its share of the money that ultimately comes out of your pocket. Why? .
If you live in unincorporated Marin, the County’s cut from your Marin Sanitary Service bill is nearly 23%. In Larkspur, it’s 17.17%. San Rafael collects 14.79%, including almost $3 million in “franchise fees” (purportedly to cover the cost of administering the contract) and almost $1.5 million in “other agency fees” (ostensibly to fix roads damaged by garbage trucks). To see the specific figures by city/town/county click here and scroll to page 4.
At Fairfax’s November 1, 2023 rate hearing, Council rapidly approved a 4.68% 2024 rate hike that included 13.17% in fees that pass through to the Town itself.
This sure looks like a local tax that residents didn’t get to vote on.
Or it might be an essential service fee for which you did not receive a proposition 218 hearing notice and the right to protest.
A recent California Supreme Court decision, Zolly v City of Oakland, suggests that either of these might be the case. Local agencies should proceed cautiously in pocketing refuse fees.
2024 Refuse Rate Hearings Happening NOW! Speak Up!
Speak up at the rate hearing in your locale (most effective) or email your council/board members. Demand that they represent YOUR interests by eliminating the franchise and road impact fees, eliminating the conflict of interest, and asking tough questions about refuse collection company’s costs at the rate hearing.
The table below shows the schedule for coming rate hearings for several local agencies that are in MSS’s “Franchisor Group.” The table also shows the percentage of your refuse bill that flows back to those same agencies — and the magnitude of the proposed rate hike. If you don’t see your city on the list below, reach out to your council/board to find out the hearing date and where to get information about the rate hikes. Share whatever you discover with us so we can continue to get the word out in future communications. Message us here
Marin Sanitary Service Franchisor Group Rate Hearings
San Anselmo – 11/13 – 5.95% Rate Increase – 12.54% Pass-Thru
Larkspur – 11/16 – 5.96% Rate Increase – 17.17% Pass-Thru
Las Galinas Valley – 11/16, & 12/67 – 6.45% Increase – 4.93% Pass-Thru
Ross- 12/14 – 6.39% Rate Increase – 13.56% Pass-Thru
San Rafael – Postponed – 5.69% Increase – 14.79% Pass-Thru
County of Marin – Date TBD – 6.33% Increase – 22.90% Pass-Thru
(West Marin Recology Rate hearing likely to be on the same day)
Questions to Ask Your Local Officials
When You Speak or Email
Have you examined Zolly v City of Oakland and considered making changes to your approaches to avert legal peril?
Has anyone recently looked at whether your various fees hidden in refuse rates are not in fact taxes requiring voter approval under either Prop 26 or a fee requiring a rigorous Prop 218 rate review?
Where are the cost of service analyses to support the exact dollar amount of the fees you receive via the refuse collection payments?
What About Novato?
Refuse collection in Novato is performed by Recology, under a franchise agreement with Novato Sanitary District. In 2022, Novato considered taking over responsibility for administering the Recology franchise, as a way to boost city revenue to cover other services (which suggests that other cities do in fact use refuse customers’ franchise fee pass-throughs to fund general expenses). Novato backed off that idea after determining this would result in an unacceptably large increase in refuse bills and the need to include service to unincorporated Novato..
Recology collects a fee from Novato customers that it passes through to the NSD, a Joint Powers Authority. The JPA fee is relatively minimal compared to those collected by members of the above-discussed MSS Franchisors Group. However, the JPA fee is increasing sharply.
At its November 13, 2023 rate hearing, NSD approved a 7.19% increase in refuse customer bills for 2024. The consultant report, pages 58-59, notes that the increase would have been only 6.24% without the sharp increase in the JPA passs-through fee.