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Mayor’s budget proposes hike for trash collection

A trash truck collects recycling on the West Side on Friday. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s budget proposal includes raising trash collection rates to help pay for recycling. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque residents may soon see the effects of soaring recycling costs in their monthly trash collection bills.

Mayor Tim Keller’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal – now pending before the City Council – includes raising rates by 5.5% on residential customers to generate nearly $2 million more for the Solid Waste Department, according to numbers provided to the council.

The increase would take effect Jan. 1, according to the mayor’s proposal, which cites the need to provide “additional funding for services in recycling as well as new services in the Clean City’s (sic) Division.”

A global recycling crisis spurred largely by China raising standards for the recyclables it accepts has dramatically changed the marketplace and increased the cost of community recycling programs.

In Albuquerque, the city spent $3.6 million in fiscal year 2020 to process its recycling. That’s up from $3.2 million in 2019 and $350,000 in 2017, according to the city.

Keller’s 233-page budget proposal for 2021 does not specify the amount of the rate increase contemplated, and a Solid Waste Department spokeswoman declined to provide details when asked by the Journal.

“The proposed budget has not been approved, so we are still evaluating options as we go through the review process,” spokeswoman Diane Wikler said in an email.

However, information provided to the City Council indicates a proposed 5.5% increase worth $1.76 million in revenue, according to the Council Services staff.

The budget has not gone through the council approval process.

Council will begin its public budget meetings Wednesday. The public will have an opportunity to comment at the Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 sessions, but not during the Oct. 15 meeting.

The council is scheduled to pass the budget during its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 19, at which time the public can also weigh in.

Keller recently has highlighted the Solid Waste Department’s financial strain, holding a news conference on the subject earlier this month. His office said at the time that the department was facing an estimated $1.6 million in lost revenue due to the loss of 550 business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city also cited surges in both recycling costs and illegal dump cleanups, which the Solid Waste Department handles.

Solid Waste collected an estimated 169,052 tons of residential garbage in fiscal year 2020 – the equivalent of 5.3 pounds per day per account – up 6.5% from the previous year, according to budget documents.

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