Higher solid waste assessments planned for Sarasota County residential customers starting in 2025 fiscal year

County Commission also approves changes in residential classes

A still from a 2019 county video shows a Waste Management truck picking up a recycling cart. With the county’s new solid waste contracts going into effect in March 2025, garbage collection will become automated, as well. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With no comment this week, the Sarasota County commissioners unanimously approved new solid waste assessments for customers, which would go into effect on Oct. 1.

However, on a related May 7 agenda item, involving a modification of the county’s Solid Waste Ordinance “to clarify the residential classes by collection service type instead of structure type,” as a county staff memo put it, Commissioner Neil Rainford voted “No.”

In early March, when the board members approved the recommendation of the county’s Solid Waste Department director, Brian Usher, to split the county into two districts and to contract with two new companies to serve them, Rainford also voted “No” on the South County contract. He had argued for keeping Waste Management as the provider for South County, given its long-time operation in Venice.

Rainford represents District 3, which contains most of Venice.

Waste Management is in the 20th year of its current franchise agreement with the county, Solid Waste Department staff confirmed for The Sarasota News Leader.

The final vote on the new solid waste assessments — which are included on customers’ annual tax bills — will be taken following a public hearing in September on the county’s proposed budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which also will begin on Oct. 1.

The ordinance modifications were approved following a May 7 public hearing; no one had shown up to address them. That item was listed on the agenda as a Presentation Upon Request, meaning no remarks from the applicant — in this case, the county — would be offered unless a board member asked for them. None of the commissioners sought remarks prior to Commissioner Ron Cutsinger’s making a motion to approve the changes, and Commissioner Joe Neunder’s second.

The new assessments were based on findings in a report that the Maitland firm Raftelis Financial Consultants issued on Feb. 8, on behalf of the county’s Solid Waste Department staff. The firm had reviewed the period ranging from this fiscal year through the 2029 fiscal year to come up with its recommendations, the report said.

Approximately 74% of the county’s solid waste operating expenses “are associated with payments to private contracted service providers, such as the County’s franchise collection haulers, landfill operators,

recycling processor, and other contract service providers,” the report pointed out. “Operating expenses are projected to grow on average by approximately 6.8% per year,” the report added. However, it continued, “baseline inflation is assumed to be approximately 3.3% a year when excluding one-time or incremental growth in operating expenses.”

The total operating expenses for the Solid Waste Department this fiscal year were estimated to be $58,370,408, Raftelis noted in a chart included in the report. By the 2029 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1 2028, the total is expected to be $81,060,344.

This graphic in the Raftelis report, completed in February, provides data about county solid waste accounts. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As of March 30, 2025, the county will be switching to the two new providers for solid waste collections.

The winner of the North District contract was Waste Pro of Florida, which has offices in Clearwater and Fort Myers. A company called FCC Environmental Services will handle the South District. FCC Environmental is part of the FCC Group, the WasteDive website notes. FCC Group is based in Spain, but, FCC Environmental has a number of offices in Florida, including one in Tampa.

The county will be paying about 24% more for those services, Solid Waste Department Director Brian Usher told the commissioners on March 5. As a result, Raftelis recommended a 13% rate increase for customers in the 2025 fiscal year and an 11.5% adjustment for the 2026 fiscal year.

The annual assessment for a Class I customer is $233.59, a county staff memo in the May 7 agenda packet noted. The assessment proposed for the 2025 fiscal year for those customers is $236.96, the memo added, which will represent a monthly uptick of $2.53.

For Class II customers, the annual assessment is $197.65; that will rise to $223.34 in FY 2025, marking a $2.14 monthly increase.

County staff did conduct four public workshops in April, at various locations, to educate the public about the coming changes in the solid waste services, the staff memo said. Altogether, 118 people participated in those sessions, the memo added.

Changes regarding customer classes

This chart in the February Raftelis report compares Sarasota County’s solid waste assessments to those of neighboring jurisdictions. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As a result of the related May 7 hearing, the commissioners changed the definition of Class I customers from those living in “single-family, duplex-triplex and quadruplex Dwelling Units; apartments of two to nine Dwelling Units, residential combination (residence plus commercial), and retirement homes that do not have commercial kitchens and contain two to nine Dwelling Units located within the Service District(s)” to “a Residential Customer receiving Residential Collection Service in a Curbside Container located within the Service District(s).”

The new definition of a Class II customer is “a Residential Customer receiving Residential Collection Service in a Class II Container [dumpster] located within the Service District(s).” Previously, that classification involved customers living in mobile homes, recreational vehicles, condominiums, cooperatives, apartment buildings with 10 or more dwelling units, retirement homes with 10 or more dwelling units “where each unit has a separate cooking facility/kitchen,” time-share apartments and mobile home parks, “including lots for mobile homes and recreation vehicles located within the Service District(s).”

The ordinance explains the following in its one section: “Studies have shown that certain properties generate a higher quantity of Solid Waste, Program Recyclables and Yard Trash, have a higher year-round occupancy level, utilize individual Collection containers (Curbside Containers) and are primarily single-family residences. For purposes of this [part of the ordinance], these properties are designated Class I Customer. A second group of properties has been shown to generate a lower quantity of Solid Waste, Program Recyclables and Yard Trash, have on the average a lower year-round occupancy level, utilize mechanically serviced containers (Class II Containers and Class II Recycling Containers) as well as individual Collection containers and are [living in] primarily multiple-family or higher density residential properties.”

The Raftelis financial firm’s February report further notes, “Based on existing customer data and anticipated customer growth, the change in  a shift of approximately 30,000 dwelling units from Class II to Class I assuming the change is effective October 1, 2024 (Fiscal Year 2025).”