The City Council will spend the next 30 days trying to decide what to do with a $109,000 rebate check the city received after being overcharged for trash pickup and disposal services by Great Western Reclamation.
The rebate is in addition to lower trash rates that were approved for Tustin residents and businesses Monday. The lower annual rate of $130.92 for residents and $135.96 for businesses--a difference of $9.84 for both groups from the 1991-92 rate--will be reflected on property tax bills expected in October.
Tustin's trash rates are taking an uncharacteristic plunge because county landfill fees did not increase as they have in the last few years and because waste pickup projections were higher than the amount of trash residents actually generated, officials said.
The city began its state-mandated recycling program last year and projected that each residential unit would produce about 81 pounds of trash per week. It turns out that residents only generated about 64 pounds of garbage a week.
The council is divided on what to do with the rebate check.
Councilmen Jeffrey Thomas and Jim Potts are leaning toward distributing the rebate to residents. Mayor Leslie Anne Pontious and Councilman Charles E. Puckett want to follow the staff recommendation to have the money put into a trust fund that will be used to offset future rate hikes. Councilman Thomas R. Saltarelli was absent Monday.
"My feeling on it is that government is not always good at getting money back to the people," Thomas said. He said the rebate would give Tustin the chance to give something, even if it is a small amount, back to the public.
Resident Al Shifberg-Mencher agreed. He said it is unfair to keep the money for the time when rates are expected to go up because by then those residents who would benefit may not be the same as those who paid the inflated charges.
Pontious argued that in the long run residents will get the money back. "By setting the money aside . . . it will allow us to more gradually absorb landfill increases," she said.
With the trust fund, residents would probably see a 10% to 15% increase on future trash bills, rather than 20% to 30%. City Manager William A. Huston said a large increase in landfill fees is very likely as early as next year, which the city will have to offset by raising residential and business trash hauling rates.
The council will discuss the issue at its Aug. 17 meeting.