BY LIONEL EMDE, RIPTIDE CORRESPONDENT
In a Riptide article posted May 27, I questioned the legality of the proposed Recology rate increase for senior citizens scheduled for August 1, based on the wording of the section entitled "Rates For Service." It turns out that in another section of the contract, the city has agreed to allow Recology to "replace" the senior rate. Under the section "Customer Services," rate changes are discussed:
"A new lifeline rate for low income (PG&E lifeline account will be used for eligibility). (sic) The lifeline rate and the 20-gallon container rate will replace the senior discount. All customers interested in the lowest rate for regular service can subscribe to the 20-gallon container regardless of age or income." (sic)
But the "Rates For Service" section reads: "The rates for service, with the approval of this assignment, will remain unchanged through July 31, 2010 (italics mine). On August 1, 2010, with the implementation of new services and containers, the rates will increase by 5% (this reflects the increase in disposal fees on July 1, 2010 and adjustments in CPI (Consumer Price Index) over the past three years when there was no rate increase." (sic)
Since the senior rate has been a regular part of a rate structure and is still being paid by customers, these sections seem to contradict each other. Given the language of the "Rates For Services" section, how can senior rate increases of 20 to 120 percent be justified? The least the City Council could do is clearly organize and carefully word a contract with such major rate increases.
Jacking Up the Senior Rate
In the new contract there is a complete avoidance of the financial implications to seniors of the jacking up of their rate. The senior (over 65) rate is currently $14.43 per month for a 32-gallon can. But under the new Recology regime, the rate for all ratepayers for a 32-gallon can rises to $31.70 per month, irrespective of one's age and financial condition. That's almost a 120 percent increase from the $14.43 per month now paid by senior citizens. To see how much less people pay for garbage collection from the same company south of Devil’s Slide, read GARBAGE RATES.
Under the new contract, there is a "Life Line Program" with a discount for low-income households. It applies only to a 20-gallon can and is $17.20 per month. That’s a monthly rate hike of almost 20 percent, from $14.43 to $17.20. Households of one or two people would have to prove a total yearly income from all sources of less than $30,500 to qualify. So the poorest among us will get a percentage rate hike four times that of regular ratepayers.
If you are unfortunate enough to make a dollar over that $30,500 figure, you will pay the new regular rate for a 20-gallon can of $20.24 per month. That’s a 40 percent rate hike, or eight times the percentage increase of regular ratepayers. The senior rate has indeed been replaced, and the more financial pressure you may be under, the worse it looks going forward from here.
Recology of the Coast General Manager Chris Porter did not respond to an email request for comment on removal of the senior citizen rate.