Miami-Dade County

Higher garbage fees may be coming to Miami-Dade suburbs

A garbage crew making the rounds in 2003. Miami-Dade hasn’t had a fee increase on its garbage service since 2006.
A garbage crew making the rounds in 2003. Miami-Dade hasn’t had a fee increase on its garbage service since 2006. Miami Herald File Photo

A proposal to raise garbage fees outside city limits throughout Miami-Dade County cleared an early vote on Thursday, with a call for more money to target illegal dumping on roadways.

Despite blocking higher fees earlier this year, Miami-Dade commissioners not only accepted Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposal for a $19 hike in the county’s $439 annual garbage fee. The 13-member board gave also gave initial approval to boost the increase to $25, provided the extra money pays for stepped-up enforcement of anti-dumping laws throughout the county.

“I’m really concerned about this illegal dumping,” said Commissioner Dennis Moss. “We want to be a world-class community. But we can’t be if we have these nasty, filthy areas.”

Raising garbage fees still requires a final vote before the 13-member board, but the initial approval marked a significant turnaround in the county’s extended reluctance to charge residents more for picking up the trash. The fee hasn’t changed since 2006, forcing the county’s Solid Waste Department to cut positions, defer maintenance on garbage trucks and implement other austerity measures.

In 2015, Moody’s downgraded the credit rating of the agency’s debt, saying the flat fee was leading to financial woes. Gimenez had tried to push through a fee hike for 2016 but ran into opposition from commissioners. Commissioners also balked last month when Gimenez proposed a $25 increase for 2018, prompting him to warn of cutbacks — including the cancellation of curbside pickup of Christmas trees — if the board didn’t accept his compromise of a $19 increase.

Approving a $19 increase for the roughly 340,000 households that depend on Miami-Dade for garbage services would only stave off cutbacks, Gimenez said. That left commissioners with the prospect of imposing new fees without delivering anything extra to constituents.

“I was hoping we’d have an increase in service,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, “because we’re hearing so many complaints about illegal dumping.”

“You want more service?” Gimenez asked the board. “Everything costs money.”