BROWNSTOWN — Faced with a rate increase of 19%, Brownstown Town Council members recently met with a Rumpke Waste and Recycling official to see if there was anything that could be done to lessen the burden on town residents.
Until July 1, the more than 970 customers were paying $9.88 per month for trash collection and another $3.98 per month for recycling for a total of $13.86 a month.
Effective July 1, the company raised the trash collection fee to $11.50 per month and the recycling fee to $5 per month for a total bill of $16.50. The proposed two-year contract also calls for those fees to go to $11.85 per month for trash and $5.15 per month for recycling on July 1, 2023. That would make the total bill $17 per month.
Chris Pierce with the company’s municipal public sector told the council Monday evening that the rate increase stems from increasing fuel prices and other factors.
“Our trucks aren’t very fuel efficient,” he said. “They get like four or five miles per gallon, so our fuel expenses have doubled.”
Pierce said the company also is seeing inflation cost the company more in terms of buying parts and keeping trucks maintained.
“Our percentages have gone way up on that side,” he said.
He said prices for new trucks also have gone up, and it now costs about $500,000 for each one.
A broader look shows about 50 to 60% of the company’s costs are related to disposal of solid waste, Pierce said.
“That’s right off the top,” he said.
Pierce said over time, the company has tried to implement smaller rate increases in Brownstown and other similar size towns, but it is now time to raise rates.
“We have been eating it (cost),” he said. “We’re not trying to do any price gouging. It’s just where our costs are at and what we have to do.”
Pierce, who has been with the company for about 14 years, said Rumpke has always operated on small profit margins of about 20%.
He said the town’s increase was actually lower than some of the other cities and towns served by Rumpke in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, which he oversees. Some have seen increases of as much as 29%.
He said some communities have started going to a fuel index that helps set collection rates. The index is published and available on a government website so it can be tracked by town officials.
Councilman Tim Robinson asked if the built-in rate increase for the second year of the contract would allow for an adjustment if fuel prices go down in the next year.
Pierce said it was a locked-in rate that could not be changed and was based on forecasts that looked at the cost of fuel the past two years.
Council President Gregg Goshorn asked if there was something the town could do to make it easier on Rumpke crews.
Pierce said the town could help by reeducating town residents about what can and can’t be disposed of, how and where to place dumpsters to make it easier to collect and other issues. He said the company’s public relations department could help with providing information to town residents.
Town attorney Zach Miller said he could not recommend the council approving a two-year deal because the contract includes a provision for Rumpke to readjust the rates if fuel prices go up.
Miller, however, said he thinks that’s understandable there is no provision for ratcheting back down if fuel prices come back down to earth.
Pierce said the council could do a one-year deal, but it could be kind of risky versus a locked-in rate right now.
He said he would check to see if the contract could include a fuel index.
Pierce said the whole contract approval process is behind schedule, but he would try to see if the fuel index could be incorporated into the second year of the contract. Customers will begin paying the new rates in August.
He told Goshorn he could have it ready before the council’s next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.