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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Trash Overbilling

A resident recently wrote to the City Council, on the topic of trash hauling (I'm removing personal information and specific names):
You made the correct move to continue this investigation. Having just written my [hauler] payment this morning, I was surprised to see and hear the rates of some of the local haulers, and my own via the City web site. I guess I am like Will, I didn't care or pay much attention to the money as long as the trash keeps going away each week. I will be investigating my own billing asap, since it just went over $50 a month (all charges).
The resident later wrote to us again, with the information he obtained from calling his hauler.
Some follow up on my call to [hauler] about my billing. First Monica offered the explanation that they have yearly increases. When I sited the $17.00 monthly charge listed on the Maplewood website, she insisted that was incorrect information. So I asked how my bill comes up to $56.20 just for the 96 gal. bucket. She said that's a quarterly bill, but I corrected her that I'm billed bi-monthly. She said 95% of their customers are quarterly. She offered to "work with me" but did not offer any refund or reductions.

FYI my bi-monthly bill charges: 96 gal tote-$56.20; fuel/environmental charge-$14.05; Admin fee-$3.00; Mn solid waste tax-$7.14; County environmental charge- $20.51; Total-$100.90
OK, I get the base rate, even if this resident is being charged $56.20 rather than the $34 per two months that the hauler reports to the city.  The MN tax is supposed to be 9.75%, and the CEC in Ramsey County on residential trash hauling is 28%.  I don't know how those "fuel/environmental" and "Admin" charges are justified -- but I can see that they are being taxed just like the supposed base rate.  9.75% x ($56.20 + $14.05 + $3) = $7.14, the MN solid waste tax figure; likewise, multiply their total by 28% and you get the CEC figure.  So whatever gimmicks the hauler may use to confuse the issue for the customer on the bill, they're reporting all those charges together as the trash hauling charge on which they pay the state and county tax.

If this hauler reports to the city that their rate for a 90-gallon container is $17, then it seems to me that the resident should be paying $17 plus 37.5% state/county tax, multiplied by two months = $46.75.  If he's actually being billed $100.90, that sure looks to me like he's being overbilled by 116% .. roughly $325 per year.

We're not even talking about how he would pay less in an organized hauling city.  Just the difference between what the hauler reports to the city, and what they actually charge this customer.  I wonder how many other Maplewood residents are being been ripped off this way?  (I've verified that another Maplewood resident has found the very same issue, being charged a base rate 72% higher than the number reported to the city per our ordinance, with their bill from a different hauler.)

If all the sound and fury of the organized collection process only results in a lot of residents taking a close look at their bills and asking these questions, and demanding that haulers simply match the rates they themselves report to the city per our ordinance, the savings may add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in our community.


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