One of our goals in Rohnert Park is to provide our residents with high quality services at a reasonable cost. One of the ways we do that is to minimize rates for services such as water, sewer and garbage while ensuring that we don’t sacrifice quality. We know that times are never good for increasing rates for these services - and that is more true now than ever. So we have mixed news for you.
First, the city council sets rates for our sewer service. While the city was scheduled for a three percent increase to start on July 1, given the tough times created by the pandemic, the city council voted to delay the increase. Last year the city council put in place a rate stabilization reserve which allows the city to delay the increase while ensuring we still have enough money to operate and properly maintain the system.
At the same time, the garbage company (Recology) sets the rates for their service, with some limited oversight by the city. The contract provides the opportunity for a full update of their rates every three years. This review includes a detailed look at their costs of labor, recycling, dumping garbage at the landfill, fuel and other factors. That review was completed several months ago. We found that their proposed increase was not justified, so we required them to reduce their request.
Additionally, the city receives a portion of revenue from the garbage bills known as franchise fees. These fees pay primarily for the costs of damage to our roads caused by garbage trucks. Recognizing the economic challenges facing many residents, earlier this month the city council approved reducing the city’s fees to save our residents $1.3 million a year compared to what we would have received without this change.
The end result is that Rohnert Park’s rates will increase but will continue to be among the lowest in the area. The amount of your increase depends on the size of the garbage can that you use. Those with a 20 gallon can (the smallest option) will see rates increase $2.32/month to $13.40/month, which will be 24 percent below the local average. Those with a 32 gallon can (the most common option) will have an increase of $4.25/month to $24.57. Those with larger cans will see larger increases ($6.64/month for those with 68 gallon cans, and $10.37 for those with 95 gallon cans).
Recognizing that many low-income families may be facing particular hardships now, the city council also approved an option to help with these bills. If you participate in PG&E’s CARE program, you are eligible for a 15 percent discount on your garbage rates.
You may also be able to reduce your garbage bill if you can use a smaller can, perhaps by recycling or composting more. I encourage you to see if this might work for you.
If you would like to downsize your can, participate in the CARE program, and/or opt to receive the 15 percent discount on your garbage bill, I encourage you to contact Recology at 800.243.0291 or RecologySonomaMarin@Recology.com.
During this difficult time, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is offering assistance to households that are facing income challenges and may need assistance managing utility bills.
The low-income California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which provides up to a 35 percent bill discount, and the Family Rate Assistance program, which provides an 18 percent discount, can reduce energy bills for qualified households.
In addition, the California Lifeline program provides discounted home or cell phone service for qualified consumers.
Families who previously did not qualify for these discounts may now be able to take immediate action to reduce utility bills by calling their utility to enroll. More information on these and other related programs/initiatives can be found at https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/lowincomerates.