Increases in Wanamingo’s property tax levy and trash removal services will mean extra expenses for residents in 2020.
The Wanamingo City Council adopted a 2020 preliminary tax levy increase of 6.85% more than 2019 at its Monday meeting, which would bring in an additional $50,000. The levy passed with all councilors voting in favor except Jeremiah Flotterud, who was absent.
With this increase, the final levy would rise to a total $780,000. Since the levy won’t be finalized until December 2019, the council has the option to decrease the amount — it cannot, however, increase beyond the planned 6.85%.
The council has discussed a variety of factors contributing to the increase, such as personnel expenses (including an additional maintenance worker position), Fire Department equipment purchases, Riverside Park cabin repairs, a street project and other costs.
New development like the Concast building and other construction coming to town may offset some of the costs, meaning existing taxpayers may not pay the full increase.
Residents will have a chance to share their thoughts on the levy and budget during a public hearing on Dec. 9, during the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.
Residents will also pay a little more for solid waste removal starting in 2020. The council approved a new agreement with Waste Management Monday, which means a slight decrease in trash removal costs ($13/month, down 25 cents from 2019 costs) but an increase in recycling ($6.18/month, up $3.43 from 2019). This brings the total residential fee to $19.18 per month.
The current agreement with Waste Management, which bought out Gibson Sanitation in 2018, expires at the end of 2019. It was the first time Wanamingo had opened the contract for bids in 15 years; despite the increases, Waste Management was the lowest bidder.
The new contract comes in the midst of the ongoing debate over countywide landfill services. The Goodhue County Board of Commissioners has spent months working on a plan to close the Bench Street Landfill in Red Wing and send all trash to the Red Wing Solid Waste campus — a plan that has earned criticism from the western side of the county, farthest from the facility.
Commissioner Barney Nesseth, who represents Wanamingo and the surrounding area, assured the council of his continued advocacy for his district, which stands to pay the most under the new plan.
“I think everybody would like to close that landfill, but the question is, who’s paying the cost?” said Nesseth. “The current format of the ordinance would mean that 27% of the county is going to pay 50% of the increased costs.”
Nesseth’s biggest concern was that the county board has not set an upper limit for the costs associated with closing the old landfill and hauling waste to the newer facility.
“That’s the frustrating part, that we have to shoulder the burden,” said Mayor Ryan Holmes.
Credit card payments
Residents have been asking for the ability to pay city fees via credit card for years, according to City Administrator Michael Boulton. Soon, it might be possible.
Boulton suggested that the city adopt GovPayNet, a system that allows cities to collect card payments either in person or online for utility bills, pet licenses, swimming lessons, building permits and other fees.
The system wouldn’t cost the city anything. Instead, residents using it would pay about 3% for each transaction to cover processing costs — a $100 payment, for example, would cost the user $103. Residents wouldn’t lose the option to pay by cash or check.
The council expressed support for the system, noting that it would add a little extra work for staff while being far more convenient for residents.
“It sounds like a no-brainer,” said Councilor Eric Dierks.
“It’s the direction everybody’s going. Nobody’s using checks anymore,” said Boulton.