Despite complaints and opposition, Riverside County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a nearly 100 percent increase in waste disposal charges over five years for more than 6,000 residents with properties in Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Pinyon Pines, Poppet Flats and Twin Pines.
"Most residents are living month to month, and they have to choose between paying taxes and purchasing medication," Ernest Wright of Poppet Flats told the Board of Supervisors ahead of its vote.
Ann Moore, also of Poppet Flats, said she and her neighbors were mostly "seniors and disabled," living on fixed incomes and barely able to afford their property taxes now -- without the addition of the upwardly adjusted trash disposal charges.
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"It's remote living, and we realize that we don't have the amenities that the city dwellers enjoy," Moore told the board. "We have small dwellings. Month to month, it's hard making ends meet. My own property taxes have gone up $1,500 this year. I wish you would search for alternate ways of carrying out trash removal."
One of the county's four waste haulers, CR&R, handles waste collection and disposal in the franchise area -- No. 8 --that was targeted for the fee hikes.
According to the Department of Environmental Health, CR&R representatives sought an "extraordinary rate review" by the county because, they argued, trash sorting and disposal operations costs were running in excess of receipts.
Most of the trash collection for the concerned property owners is handled at transfer stations in Anza and Idyllwild, where the residents have to bring their garbage, according to Moore and Wright.
Environmental health officials said the affected property owners' waste disposal rates had only been adjusted three times in the last 20 years and were well beneath prevailing rates when factored for inflation.
The current rate paid by the impacted parties is $116.88 a year, folded into property taxes.
Under the rate scheme approved by the board, those costs will rise about $20 annually until reaching $216 in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
"I really empathize with people. This is a tough deal," said Supervisor Marion Ashley. "But we've got to recover the cost. It's been a long time since the last increase. We should have been doing this in small increments before."
Supervisor Chuck Washington, whose Third District encompasses large swaths of the franchise area, acknowledged that the fee hikes were "difficult to support," but he didn't see any way to avoid them.
"In areas where the costs aren't met, another region of the county has to support the overall provision of service," Washington said.