CUDAHY — A decision earlier this year by the City Council to add trash collection fees to twice-a-year property tax bills has resulted in numerous mix-ups and left some residents angry and confused.
Over the past few weeks, many city residents have received two property tax bills, both of which were incorrect because of foul-ups involving the trash fee. The residents have been told to expect another bill in mid-December.
The sudden proliferation of tax bills, with the unexpected addition of the trash pickup charge, has many residents upset.
"It set me afire," said Cudahy property owner Ove Hansen, who said he had been used to paying about $22 every three months for trash service, but last month received a bill for $99.
City officials said that like many residents, Hansen had been mistakenly overcharged.
But Hansen said he is convinced that the city adopted the new billing technique as a way to significantly increase the trash collection fees.
City Manager Jack Joseph denied that was the case. He said the change simply involves the elimination of separate, quarterly trash collection bills.
The trash charge "is just not going to come the way people are used to getting it. It will come in the property tax bill . . . Instead of paying four times a year, (residents) will pay two times a year. This is not unusual."
The city adopted the billing change at the request of the private firm that it hires for trash collection, Consolidated Disposal Systems Inc.
In August, Consolidated officials told the council that only 60% of the homeowners were paying their quarterly trash bills. The low rate of payment meant that the company had to constantly raise rates, in effect forcing those who paid their bills to pay for those who did not.
Consolidated officials said their experience has shown that if the trash fees were included in the property tax bills, as is done in Bell and Artesia, nearly everyone would pay both charges.
With the exception of Councilman John Robertson, the five-member council agreed to add the trash bill to the property tax bill. Then the glitches started to occur.
First, Los Angeles County mailed the most recent round of property tax bills without adding the trash pickup charge.
After the error was discovered, revised bills were sent out that included the trash charge, but Consolidated made several errors in its computations that resulted in many residents' being overcharged.
Consolidated also had all delinquent charges tacked onto the property tax bills, so many residents suddenly received huge bills.
"It is a real mess," Robertson said. "I pointed out (in August) that we didn't have enough time to set this up properly, but it was the same old routine, 'Robertson doesn't know what he is talking about' . . . . I feel they have no one to blame but themselves. This is the Christmas present they gave the residents."
However, Councilman Joseph Fregeau said he still believes that using the property tax method is the most efficient way of collecting the trash fees.
Joseph said new, and with any luck, correct bills will be issued in mid-December. He said the delinquent charges will be deleted and Consolidated will be responsible for collecting them.
Under state health law, trash haulers must pick up refuse whether or not clients pay.