Garbage and recycling cans on the street waiting for pickup
San Jose is considering another garbage rate increase to 4% for single-family service and 2% for multi-family service. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

San Jose garbage and recycling rates are on the rise again, making it more difficult for low-income families to balance their budgets.

The city is proposing a 4% rate increase or $2.05 a month for single-family service, which would bring the monthly bill to $53.45 or $641.40 annually for the 32-gallon cart. The multi-family service increase would be 2% or 45 cents per month. Multi-family service costs about $25 per month on average. The cost change is for both garbage and recycling service and includes collection and processing of garbage, recycling, yard trimmings and junk pickup.

San Jose Environmental Services Department spokesperson Jennie Loft told San José Spotlight the rate increases are needed due to about 4.47% in rising costs to cover cost of living adjustments and operational fees paid to waste haulers.

Recycling contractors are also compensated for garbage found in recycling carts, she said. This was part of a contract negotiation that addressed claims that garbage in recycling carts affects operational costs.

Single-family rates increased last July at 4% and multi-family rates at 2%. Loft said the city reviews costs and revenue every year and determines if a change in rates is needed.

Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe, said the proposed rate increase could significantly affect under-resourced residents already facing financial challenges. She urges the city to provide assistance programs or exemptions for low-income households.

“While a 4% increase for single-family dwellings and a 2% increase for multi-family dwellings may seem modest, for the working poor, even small increases can have a huge impact,” she told San José Spotlight. “For families already struggling to pay bills, any additional financial burden can further strain their limited resources. Our community may need to make difficult choices between paying for essential services like garbage collection and meeting other basic needs such as food, rent or health care.”

San Jose Councilmember Bien Doan said he doesn’t believe in more taxes and fees. He’d like the city to find efficient, effective alternatives to raising costs or a funding source that doesn’t affect residents.

“We live in a very expensive area and every dollar counts for our citizens,” he told San José Spotlight. “If the rates keep rising on top of everything else, how do you expect our citizens to survive? I believe we can find some kind of solution to better serve our environment and not raise the rate for our taxpayers.”

Loft said San Jose doesn’t offer financial assistance to disadvantaged residents struggling to pay garbage and recycling bills.

“Under California state law, Proposition 218 prohibits using rate payer funds to cover costs for programs such as low-income rate assistance,” she said. “Therefore, the city cannot subsidize some of its customers by overcharging other customers. San Jose had a low-income rate assistance program in the past, which served a very small percentage of ratepayers, however, with no legal funding source identified, this program was eliminated in July 2015.”

Victor Vasquez, co-executive director of SOMOS Mayfair, would like the city to find a way of covering these costs for people unduly impacted.

“This increase puts additional economic pressure on our families, both working class and middle class,” he told San José Spotlight. “It’s compounding the issue of affordability: the high rents, high mortgage rates…child care. It’s not sustainable to continue increasing the cost of these services for folks working two or three jobs. We know wages are not keeping up.”

Public notices were mailed in early April advising property owners of the proposed rate changes. A public hearing and San Jose City Council vote are scheduled for June 4. As of May 6, the city clerk’s office had received 612 letters of protest.

Loft said San Jose’s proposed rate increases are comparable to the local marketplace. She said the city’s garbage and recycling services are robust as they include recycling, loose in the street yard trimmings, on-demand junk pickups, oil collection and processing of all waste to recover organics and recyclables. Only San Jose includes unlimited junk pickup for both single-family and multi-family dwellings, she added.

“This combination of services results in San Jose having one of the most effective residential recycling programs in the area,” Loft said.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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