Council debated last week whether to impose a standardized garbage collection fee — or to allow everyone else to subsidize seniors.
And then voted to standardize it.
The new waste contract, which takes effect in May 2017, and the staff recommendation was to remove exemptions and, to increase seniors’ fees gradually to the standard fees, over a period of four years.
Council approved removing the existing business, vacation and vacant building exemptions as well as phasing in increased fees for seniors.
At the last meeting, city council voted to send the matter back to staff for the financial implications of allowing about 2300 senior households to pay lower fees for garbage collection.
Under the new rates for the expanded curbside program with garbage, recycling and organics, they’d been paying about $18.60 for all of it, which is more than double their current rate.
Some councillors said at the time they favoured finding a way to continue a reduced rate for seniors.
City staff was asked to crunch the numbers to see what subsidized rates would look like. At a 10 per cent subsidy for seniors, it would cost 60 cents per month more for each regular household, at 25 per cent subsidy it would be $1.55/month more, and at a 50 per cent subsidy it would cost $3.15/month extra.
The sticking point was that other subscribers would have to subsidize seniors in some way in order to continue to offer them a reduced rate for curbside waste collection.
Staff was recommending in a report to city council that they approve standardizing the curbside program, and eventually have all users paying the same rate, or it could get very expensive.
“A seniors’ discounted service would require subsidization since it cannot be achieved through contract cost-savings.”
The other challenge was that potentially more than 5400 households could apply anew.
“It can be expected that more households would apply if a general seniors’ subsidy is offered without a corresponding reduction in service level,” according to the staff report, and “the financial implications become more significant when 25% of the households are being subsidized rather than approximately 10% of households.”
Chilliwack had been the only municipality in B.C. to offer reduced fees or exemptions to standardized rates for seniors, commercial contracts, as well as for vacations and vacancies, but that has now ended since council has voted to standardize fees at $18.60, based on 120L size organics cart size.