St. Paul Mayor threatens steep property tax increase ahead of trash collection referendum vote

Trash collection has been a hot topic in the city of St. Paul and now the Minnesota Supreme Court has spoken.

The court has ruled the trash collection contract will continue despite an upcoming referendum.

It’s no longer an issue of whether the contract stays, but who is going to pay for this nearly $30 million bill. In just three weeks, St. Paul residents will get the answer and it all depends on how the people of St. Paul vote on the ordinance.

“If the referendum is repealed, the $27.1 million contract will shift from individual rate payers to all property taxpayers in the city, resulting in a 17.4 percent increase in the property tax levy,” said Mayor Melvin Carter at a press conference Wednesday.

“This is a scare tactic trying to get people to vote yes because they think their taxes are going to go up,” said Tom Goldstein, a St. Paul resident. “The court said nothing about that you have to raise property taxes.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that 6,400 residents like Goldstein did not interfere with the five-year contract between St. Paul and the Haulers Consortium by asking to put the issue up for vote on the November ballot.

“They have to pay the money somehow,” said Joe Olson, of the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Contrary to what the mayor says will happen if St. Paul votes against the ordinance, Olson says it is not true.

“Some not receiving garbage services, including small businesses and multi-family residential properties and renters in those spaces may have to foot the bill through those property taxes,” Carter said.

“Like politicians, they’re trying to hand off the burning pile of garbage to someone else,” Olson said.

There are other ways the city can pay the nearly $30 million contract, he says. It starts with a clause the Mayor’s attorney made sure was in the ordered deal.

“Using the force majeure clause would force the haulers and the city into a room where they have to negotiate,” Olson explained.

This could avoid the need to raise property taxes if the people vote against the ordinance. It’s an ordinance many say shouldn’t have been dumped on them in the first place.

“It’s all adding costs and it’s adding costs to people on fixed incomes. It’s adding costs to seniors,” Goldstein said.

Olson added that the Mayor and Council could have avoided this mess by not rushing the ordinance through last year. Meanwhile, the issue will go up for vote Nov. 5.