Citing increased costs for labor, landfills and equipment, city staff warned City Council this week that it will likely need to increase trash collection rates in the coming fiscal year, which begins in October.

“The solid waste fund is not structurally balanced,” Office of Management and Budget Director Justina Tate told council members in a quarterly budget meeting Wednesday.

“This is a result of increase in personnel cost, landfill cost and equipment cost, and as a result to maintain the level of service we are anticipating that a rate increases likely for fiscal year 2024,” Tate said.

San Antonio solid waste fees currently range from $14.76 to $26.76 per month, depending on the size of waste bin residents use.

City staff didn’t specify how much rates would need to go up, but noted that the Solid Waste Operating and Maintenance Fund was $500,000 behind budget in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 and would be $1.6 million behind budget by the end of September.

On Thursday, the council received a briefing on the city’s first search for landfill vendors since 1995. The current contracts will expire in 2025, and new contracts are expected to start at roughly $12 million and $13 million per year.

“That’s a major cost driver for us,” said City Manager Erik Walsh.

News of the forthcoming rate hikes came with an overall positive outlook for the city budget at Wednesday’s meeting. Tate said revenue been buoyed by high CPS Energy bills from the hot summer, as well as higher than expected sales tax revenue.

“Our financial position is positive for the first three months with revenues close to budget or slightly ahead, with the exception of solid waste,” Tate said.

The city added 15 new solid waste collection drivers, as well as one new fleet mechanic, into its solid waste budget for the 2023 fiscal year. It also reshuffled residents’ pickup days late last year in an effort to streamline routes and reduce costs.

“It absolutely has helped, it staved off a rate increase for this year,” Solid Waste Management Department Director David Newman told council members Wednesday.

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) suggested the deficit for the Solid Waste Operating and Maintenance Fund should be made up elsewhere in the budget as opposed to increasing rates, because residents have already contributed more than expected to the budget through their CPS Energy bills.

“Solid waste fees disproportionately impact the average resident, the same people … who are providing a surplus,” said McKee-Rodriguez. “I would be very hesitant to support an increase to the solid waste fee going into 2024.”

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.