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Trash, sewer subsidies to go in Burbank

About 1,900 customers gradually will lose help with their bills.

May 28, 2013|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Burbank officials have decided to gradually wind down subsidies for trash-hauling and sewer bills for low-income seniors and disabled people after voters in April rejected a measure to keep funding the program.

The City Council last week decided to pitch in $292,490 to phase out the program over the next three years, tapping one-time money from the city's General Fund, which pays for most public services, as they starting weaning the 1,900 customers off the subsidies.

Qualifying customers will still see their bills jump in July since the city isn't funding the whole program, which costs $390,000 a year.

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But by ramping down the financial assistance over time, customers will have a chance to "adjust their finances" before the subsidy is axed completely, said Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford.

The move will soften the blow for the 1,900 households that currently get a 50% discount on their sewer and trash-hauling bills. There are about 44,000 households in the city.

Currently, the decades-old program saves eligible residents roughly $10 a month on sewer services, and between $15 and $25 a month, depending on trash-can size, on trash-hauling services.

To qualify for the city's subsidy next year and beyond, single-family households must use the smallest trash container — which holds 32 gallons — as opposed to the 64- or 94-gallon containers.

Without the city's intervention, affected customers would see their trash and sewer rates double.

With the three-year ramp-down, city officials said they will have time to promote Project Share, a Burbank Water and Power program that through community donations helps cash-strapped customers pay their bills.

Last year, the program raised $50,000, not nearly enough to support the sewer and refuse assistance programs.

Officials said they may reevaluate the assistance program in the future.

"In future budgets we may be able to make further adjustments," said Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. "Or we can take this back to voters in two years and have a much stronger, more visible campaign."

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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