BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — On Tuesday, Kern’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a tax increase for residents and commercial haulers due to California’s new compost law.
The law requires all residents across California to put food scraps in their green trash bin so it can be turned into compost. But how to manage that extra waste is left up to individual cities and counties, and in Kern, the plan is controversial.
The Board’s approval comes at the heels of a delayed vote and backlash from a former city and county employee last meeting.
“Taken together with the July 2021 increase of 27% the department will have asked the Board to increase land use fee 117% over the course of one year,” Former Kern Public Works Civil Engineer Nancy Ewert said.
The ordinance raises the land tax for owners of residential property with one to four parcels from $105 to $160 starting July 2022, with the option of up that 3% each year.
The fee boost will pay for new technologies and equipment the county says it needs to comply with the new law, including constructing a new 20 million dollar composting site in the Shafter-Wasco area.
At the last meeting, in protest, a former city employee Kevin Barnes said Kern’s existing facilities aren’t at full capacity.
“I would encourage you to look for that capacity to be used instead of spending tens of millions of dollars on new capacity,” he said.
On Tuesday, Kern’s Public Works department rebutted.
“With the construction of a new compost facility at the Shafter location where the material all is, we can avoid the $25 a ton shipping cost and the $50 a ton gate fee,” Kern County Public Works manager Chuck Magee said.
Magee added Barnes’ suggestion would actually cause a larger tax boost in the long term.
“That five and a half million dollars we have anticipated saving because of this facility, if we don’t do this facility, that would mean I need five and a half million dollars more every year, forever,” he said.
The state says the goal of the compost law is to reduce the amount of food waste sitting in landfills by 75% by the year 2025 from 2014 levels. That is because decaying food waste emits a very potent greenhouse gas called methane.