The city’s public utilities department held a series of four public meetings last week and this week to review the process, known as “Prop. 218.” The last meeting is tonight, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Sunnyside High School cafeteria.
Public utilities director Brock Buche, speaking to a sparse crowd on Nov. 28 at Fresno City Council chambers, said costs have grown 16% since 2012, but with only a 13% growth in revenue. The city is dipping into its reserve to make up the balance, and that is about to run out.
Revenues for this fiscal year are at $32 million, about $4 million more than in 2012. Standard service — 96-gallon cans for recycling, green waste, and garbage — is $25.37 a month. A smaller 64-gallon trash can reduces the rate to $19.20 monthly.
Costs have gone up $4.6 million for the same period, Buche said, for labor, fuel, and landfill fees.
The city will ask the city council to start the Prop. 218 process. The city will present an independent analysis from HF&H Consultants of revenues and expenses that would help determine how much the raise would be.
If the city council moves forward, it will conduct the rate-setting process. Garbage customers would then have an opportunity to return protest cards, objecting to the rate hike.
“If less than a simple majority protests the proposed rate update, the Division will request that City Council adopt the proposed rates,” the public utilities website said.
The new rates could go into effect July 1, 2024. Without an increase, Buche said on Nov. 28, the department would have to borrow from other departments in the city. That could risk a cut to city services.
A vote to even start the process could be tough for five city councilmembers running for office in 2024 — Tyler Maxwell and Mike Karbassi are running for re-election; Garry Bredefeld, Luis Chavez, and Miguel Arias are running for county supervisor seats. Approving a hike in rates, even just to get the process started, could easily become a political issue.
Also in Politics 101
- Social workers want a new contract.
- Neighbors, led by Smittcamp, sue the city of Fresno.
Fresno County Social Workers Want New Contract
The labor contract for Fresno County social workers expires Jan. 21. Members with SEIU 521 demonstrated during their lunch hour on Tuesday at the Clovis location. They have been protesting weekly for the last month.
“We are fighting for just basic cost of living, just to make ends meet. A lot of our (entry-level) social workers coming in are barely able to make the rent and buy a little bit of groceries. Our eligibility workers are in the same boat,” said Lorraine Ramirez, a 23-year veteran with the child protection division.
Union members said they are fighting for money, as well as job and workplace protections.
“We are actively engaged in the bargaining process and cannot comment during the negotiations,” county spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said.
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) December 5, 2023
Neighbors Sue Over Home Healthcare Site
A group of northwest Fresno neighbors, led by Brent Smittcamp, is suing the city of Fresno for approving a home healthcare facility.
Smittcamp — president of Smittcamp Ag Enterprises — lives adjacent to the Bullard Avenue location where Infinite Living wants to build a medical facility. He is suing along with another neighbor.
The city approved the facility — the planning commission on July 19, and the city council on Oct. 19 — despite objections from Smittcamp and several other neighbors at a series of city hearings. The lawsuit said the city “violated its own land use planning and zoning laws.”
The plan calls for 54 beds that would treat patients with severe respiratory problems.
The lawsuit listed several complaints made at previous meetings — traffic, noise, and light among others. The plaintiffs accuse the city of violating state environmental review laws, known as CEQA. They request that the city vacate its decision, and ask for unspecified damages.
Brian Whelan, an attorney who is part of the Infinite Living group, declined comment.
Councilman Mike Karbassi, who represents the area, recused him during the city council vote because Whelan is his attorney on an unrelated matter.
“Now, it is in the hands of the legal system. I will have no further comment,” Karbassi said.
Northwest neighbors are suing the city of Fresno for allowing this home to be used for an acute respiratory facility. (City of Fresno)