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Council to discuss garbage fees, location of ACE train station
garbage
The Turlock City Council will consider two options in reducing the garbage fee increase approved in February and set to begin April 1. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock City Council is expected to discuss how to lessen the financial burden on residents regarding the garbage fee increase approved in February due to new state mandates.

New state-mandated requirements are calling on municipalities to help reduce California’s organic waste by 75% in the next three years, and the resulting changes have contributed to Turlock Scavenger increasing fees for the first time in six years. 

Following an independent study by R3 Consulting Group, Turlock Scavenger found that compliance with the new Senate Bill 1383, coupled with inflated costs and a shortfall in revenue, would require the city’s garbage collection service to raise its fees in order to stay afloat. Turlock Scavenger’s fees have remained flat since 2015 and have remained well below the rates of comparable communities during that time, said Garth Schultz of R3CG. 

SB 1383 is meant to divert organics from the garbage stream, instead collecting them and directing them to more beneficial uses, such as composting. There are a variety of new requirements under the new mandate for residences and businesses alike, and the City will provide education and outreach until penalties begin to take effect in 2024.

The unfunded state mandate impacts the solid waste industry, forcing Turlock Scavenger to absorb the increases of operational costs to comply with each new requirement. The increases were approved in a 3-2 vote on Feb. 8, with Councilmembers Nicole Larson and Andrew Nosrati dissenting, with the caveat that new city manager Reagan Wilson explore reducing Turlock Scavenger’s franchise tax fee so that ratepayers won’t see as large of an increase in their bill by the time new rates are in effect April 1.

After discussion with the consultant, City staff will present the Council with two options on reducing the Refuse Franchise Fee — from 15% to 10% or 5% to offset the impact of the approved rate increase.

With a franchise fee reduction, there will be a fiscal impact in the current and future fiscal years.  In fiscal year 2021-22, the City budgeted $1,684,500 in the General Fund for the garbage franchise fee.  Since the rate increase is not effective until April 1, there will be minimal impact to this year’s budget according to City staff, however, future fiscal years will reflect a surplus or shortfall depending on the selected franchise fee rate.

Using the current fiscal year 2021-22 budget as a baseline, the City would see an estimated shortfall in fiscal year 2022-23 of $343,412 if a 5% franchise fee is utilized. Whereas, a surplus of $66,351 is estimated with a 10% franchise fee. 

The estimated five-year cumulative shortfall at 5% is $991,393.  At 10%, the estimated five-year cumulative surplus is $883,030.

Also on Tuesday, the Council is expected to consider recommending a change in location to a proposed Altamont Corridor Express train station slated to be built in Turlock in the next three years.

The Turlock station — part of the ACE train expansion to Merced — had originally been planned to be located off Golden State Boulevard, near the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds and across from the Turlock Transit Center.

The Council will consider asking the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority to change the location to downtown Turlock near Marshall Street, South Golden State Boulevard and 1st Street.

According to the Staff report on the agenda item, an ACE train station positioned in downtown would serve the downtown and surrounding businesses, public venues and will provide for the redevelopment of the Turlock downtown area.

The Turlock City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway. Council meetings are open to the public.