City awards trash collectors an 8.5-percent raise to retain and attract workers


Confronting a critical shortage of trash collectors, the Vero Beach City Council last week authorized across-the-board pay raises for its Solid Waste Division employees.

City Manager Monte Falls proposed the 8.5-percent pay increases in hopes of attracting new employees to – and retaining existing workers in – a 24-person division where job vacancies are at 25 percent.

“We should have done this a long time ago,” Councilman Rey Neville said. “These guys work hard. They do a great job. I fully support the effort.”

Councilman John Carroll agreed, saying, “It’s a dangerous job, and it’s hard work.”

Without debate, the council voted unanimously to approve the raises, which were retroactive to Oct. 8, the start of the first pay period of the 2023-24 fiscal year. Trash collectors’ hourly pay rate will increase from $18.08 to $19.61.

The division’s employees also will receive bonuses – $3,000 for new hires who stay for six months; and $1,500 for existing workers who stay for six months, plus another $1,500 three months later.

The cost of the pay raises will be covered by a 5.23-percent hike in monthly trash-collection charges, which will increase 89 cents, from $16.98 to $17.87. The solid waste department is a self-supporting enterprise fund, so the raises don’t impact property taxes. 

Even with the increase in charges, the city’s rates, which cover twice weekly garbage collection and once-per-week yard-debris pickup, remain below those of other nearby municipalities that offer similar service.

According to city documents: Fort Pierce charges $22.14 for the same services;  and Indian River Shores charges $29.34 for twice weekly garbage-only, curbside-cart pickup.

Indian River County’s current contract with Waste Managament provides weekly curbside-cart pickup on a voluntary basis at a cost of $10.75 per month. However, county officials are seeking bids for its 2025 contract.

Sebastian, meanwhile, also contracts with Waste Management, which provides the same weekly service received by county residents – but with mandatory collection – for $19.45 per month.

In an Oct. 2 memo to Falls, City Public Works Director Matt Mitts addressed the need for the pay raises.

“Turnover of one or two positions at any given time is typical for the operation,” Mitts wrote, “but following the Covid pandemic, years of inflation, cost of living increases, and the physicality required for the work – and a competitive labor market – solid waste cannot operate its labor unit with the current pay scale.

“Solid waste has had collectors quit on the first day of employment,” he added, “with comments ranging from ‘Your team are rock stars and amazing at what they do, but this job isn’t for me‘ to ‘This job isn’t worth it.’”

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