Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

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By Joan Albion

If you're a resident of the City of Santa Barbara, you've surely received the four-page document announcing a proposed rate change for the wastewater, trash, and recycling for next year.

The Trash & Recycling document stated the increase is scheduled for July 1, 2022 at 3%. This is due to the "contract terms with the City's waste hauler" so the City "must increase rates to pay MarBorg for increases in inflation of 4.7% as measured by the Consumer Price Index, plus 1.3% for an increase in processing and disposal fees."

For a small residential home, it's estimated the monthly bill will increase from $56.15 to $57.70, a $1.55 jump. Sure that doesn't seem like a lot, but if the reason is inflation, does that mean the price will go back down when inflation levels off? No. When in the history of the city have they ever LOWERED prices? Never, even when their costs decrease. Once it goes up, it never comes back down. 

The Wastewater document says the increase is to maintain the wastewater system and will enable the City to "meet the needs of the wastewater system, including operation and maintenance costs, capital improvements, mandated standards of treatment, debt service, contingency reserves, and other financial obligations."

What? Let's mash a bunch of words together so we can rationalize this cost. I read this as the increase is to continue our bloated salaries, handle the mismanagement of funds, and have enough in the bank for more increased salaries. 

According to GovSalaries.com, Wastewater System Manager Amanda Flesse made $230k in 2020 in salary and benefits, a $25,000 increase from 2019. The same website reports this is 148% higher than average and 156% higher than the median salary in Santa Barbara. Similarly, Wastewater Collection System Superintendent Bradley Rahrer made $191k in 2020 ($24k increase from 2019), 106% higher than average and 113% higher than the median salary in Santa Barbara.

For an average single-family residence, the monthly bill will increase by $3.75. Combined with the trash charge, it's a total increase of $5.30 per month. That doesn't seem like a lot, but considering that right now it wouldn't even cover a gallon of gas, it's time for the City to pause all rate hikes until inflation has gone down and the cost of gas, groceries and daily expenses have dropped back to normal. No more profiting off the backs of hardworking taxpayers to increase salaries.

If the City could promise this was a temporary hike to battle inflation and it would go down in 6 months, I'd consider it. But the City never does that and I wouldn't trust them to keep their promises.

Join me in protesting this rate hike, here's how:

Submit a written protest that must be received by June 14, 2022. Send it to the City Clerk at City of Santa Barbara at 735 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. It must include your name, service address, and whether you are protesting the amount of the fee increase, the basis for calculation of the fee, or both. You can also attend the live meeting on Tuesday, June 14 at 2:00 p.m. at City Hall.


Op-Ed's are written by community members. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat. Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at ed@edhat.com.

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a-1651344151 Apr 30, 2022 11:42 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

Seems as if we're stomaching price increases most everywhere. Sigh - am facing increased expenses - es la vida. Yesterday as I opened a letter from Blue Shield announcing an 8.1% increase, I recalled using my frequent flyer points to upgrade to business class on a long overseas trip and the person next to me was a low level executive of Blue Shield insurance on a business trip. Who was paying for his trip - we are. Thanks Edhat for not increasing the subscription rate.

fewtile Apr 30, 2022 11:08 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

Aside from the rate hike, what about (who institutes salary hikes?) The name Flesse in this article rang a bell for me. 12 years ago she was lead engineer in the West Beach improvements, a multimillion$$ project mishandled leaving many subcontractors on the hook for thousands of dollars (me personally). The 'Peter Principle' in action. These Santa Barbara City administrators ARE way overpaid, especially considering them , most often, behind the curve.

a-1651337323 Apr 30, 2022 09:48 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

There are so many matters to upset one, and venting anger seems on the increase, I try to reserve what upsets me to what is really important , otherwise the there's little peace of mind. Water, cable, food, gas, rents, property prices - it's such a fast changing world with little protections for many of us.

jojomilo Apr 30, 2022 08:46 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

I get that our education system might not be the best but statements like "when inflation goes down do rates go down" is bad education in writing. If a price is $100, inflation 10%, the new price is $110. When inflation goes down to 5% the price goes up further to $115 not down. As far as the % increase, the Democratically controlled country, state and county has produced 8-10% inflation. Why this "educated" writer is not praising Marborg and others for holding the line is just sad.

RHS Apr 30, 2022 08:45 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

People who complain about government fee increases seem never to complain about worse examples in the private sector. The amazing gas price run up has seen stunning profits for the private sector for example. But the complaint is that government collects taxes on fuel or pays its employees fairly or has retirement programs for them (to which they contribute substantially). These complains are just expressions of negativity about government per se. Not sure why exactly but the obscene wealth of private sector pirates (yes Elon, I mean you) does not seem to cause any concern even when built on government subsidy and outright giveaway (yes Texas I mean you). So let's just accept that these pot shots are really just emissions of political views, not economic analysis.

a-1651330365 Apr 30, 2022 07:52 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

Yes, this expense is going up, but in the bigger picture my health insurance went up a lot more as well as my drug costs and increasingly am finding myself having to appeal to have meds included that used to be covered. Now that's something annoying, especially since the same meds are much less expensive in Canada. Am on fixed income and these expenses are something impact me much more than an increase in water and trash.

Lucky 777 Apr 30, 2022 06:26 AM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

You are not even adding in the WATER rates which are going way up. They don't seem like much until you see that once you go past the first "tier" you get reamed. It has certainly made me rethink my vegetable garden this year, which usually seems like a nice hedge against food cost inflation. But if watering it put me into a punishable strata, whoooeeee. Of course this will not effect Oprah, who will once again truck in tanker loads of water to keep her estates looking like a lush botanical garden. But for the peasants we will cut back on flowers and more of our historic street trees will die.

Voice of Reason Apr 29, 2022 03:53 PM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

" but if the reason is inflation, does that mean the price will go back down when inflation levels off? No" --- Actually no, that's not how inflation works. When inflation levels off it will be a higher level than it is/was. The CPI would have to drop for prices to go down, and that only happens rarely and usually comes with significant financial devastation (i.e. the Great Recession).

Voice of Reason Apr 29, 2022 03:58 PM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

Due to our disastrous (and ineffective) Covid shutdown policies, which required historical all-time levels of stimulus/money printing to avoid a total financial collapse (like 80% of the dollars printed were printed in the last 2 years) we and our children will (literally) be paying the price for generations to come.

Look_Over_Here Apr 29, 2022 03:45 PM
Op-Ed: Santa Barbara Trash and Sewer Rate Hike Should Not Happen

Thank you for this post. When I received the rate increase change documents, I could not believe the city would be doing this. (Someone wants an increase in their pay). I had planned to submit/send a letter and your post reminded me to do it now. It is done and in the mail.

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