A reluctant council unanimously passed an 8 percent increase for garbage service in Menlo Park during its Dec. 13 meeting.
Rising labor costs negotiated by the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA) were passed through to local Recology customers.
According to staff, the new monthly rates for a single-family home will be $13.99 for a 20-gallon can, an increase of $1.04, and $23.40 for a 32-gallon. Staff told the council that those two categories represent more than 75 percent of Menlo Park customers.
"I think it's hard for people to fathom that when we recycle more, our rates go up," Mayor Kirsten Keith commented.
Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson, whose seat comes up for re-election in 2012, took pains to point out that the current rate increases were due to a contract negotiated with Allied Waste more than 20 years ago by different people. "That's the torture of being a council member," she said.
During public comments, some people wondered whether hauling garbage to the landfill themselves would be a cheaper option.
In 2009, Menlo Park garbage rates jumped 18 percent. In 2010, 28 percent, and then another 7 percent this year. The hikes were meant to cover the $737,000 the city still owes Allied Waste by Sept. 30, 2012.
Allied Waste signed a labor contract in December 2008 with pay raises of 17 to 19 percent over five years once the company learned that it lost its contract for Menlo Park and 11 other jurisdictions. When Recology took over from Allied on Jan. 1, it was forced to honor those salary rates for the remaining five years left on the 2008 contract.
City staff told the council on Tuesday night that the increase for 2012 should provide enough surplus to pay off the remaining debt and cushion any further service expenses on Recology's part, meaning there should be no rate hike in 2013.