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St. Paul mayor says November's trash collection vote could lead to property tax increase

Updated: August 23, 2019 10:22 PM

Trash is going on the ballot in Saint Paul. But, Mayor Melvin Carter warns taxes could go up if voters turn out against the city's new collection program.

He responded Friday afternoon to the Minnesota Supreme Court decision from Thursday. It upheld a lower court order to put the ordinance to a vote.

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The ordinance outlines the rules for organized trash collection in the city.

“We respect the decision from the Supreme Court and appreciate their swift response and attention to this matter,” said Mayor Carter.

He told reporters that the city is still waiting for the Supreme Court’s rationale so there are still some unknowns about how they will move forward.

According to the Mayor, however, the referendum won't give voters the option to eliminate the program entirely.

“The city will continue to ensure our garbage is picked up both through, and beyond, Election Day,” he said. “Unless otherwise indicated by the Supreme Court, the city's contract with the haulers remains in effect.”

In 2020, organized collection is expected to cost $27.1 million, according to Carter. If voters repeal the ordinance, rate payers will no longer pick up the tab.

Instead, the cost would shift to all property owners in the city, which he said would require a property tax increase of 17.4 percent.

“Our first responsibility is to public health and public safety,” said Carter. “It's our responsibility to ensure always in Saint Paul we can answer the very important question of who will pick up the trash next week.”

When the program was introduced in October, the city said it was designed to better manage garbage collection, and reduce traffic and pollution.

Supreme Court upholds lower court decision on St. Paul trash ordinance, sending it to November ballot

It canceled residents’ contracts with their haulers and assigned new companies and pick up days. Pricing was also standardized.

Homeowner Mike Schumann calls it a disaster.

“You’re required to have a trash container for every one of your units, okay well a lot of people that have fourplexes in Saint Paul don’t have room for four containers,” he said. “There’s no flexibility whatsoever and they basically have refused to deal with us on basic questions.”

He was one of hundreds of residents who signed a petition to put the program to a vote. The City Council denied the request, so the petitioners sued.

Schumann is frustrated with the city’s response to the Supreme Court decision.

“I think it's ridiculous,” he said. “We’re going to try to get all of the city council members replaced.”

Shirley Erstad agreed.

“I think they're playing politics,” said Erstad. “They have forgotten who the boss is and on November 5th we are going to speak loud and clear and remind then who actually pays the bills in this city.”

All seven city council seats are up this year. A couple of opponents of the trash collection system are running, including in Ward 3 where Patricia Hartmann is challenging Chris Tolbert.

Hartmann was one of the organizers of the petition to get the ordinance to a vote.

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