Mayor holds firm on stand to avoid tax hike in new waste contract

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- With bids in hand, the City of Omaha will begin the work of deciding who will haul off what its residents throw away.

Leading up to this point, city officials have fully expected the cost for future service will jump. But Mayor Jean Stothert says she remains committed to putting the new wheels in motion without a tax increase.

Last year, the city fined Waste Management repeatedly for co-mingling yard waste. The company blamed a nationwide shortage of drivers. Waste Management is one of the four companies bidding.

Depending on the option proposed by the city:

  • Yard waste would be separate or co-mingled
  • Recyclables would be collected be every week or every other week

Among other things, Waste Management of Nebraska has the highest bid in every category, but one.

Right now, the cost is $14.5 million a year. One of the new bids puts that at $32 million.

The mayor says she expected as much but wants to be clear.

“I am not advocating a tax increase to pay for it. I never have. We're doing it with careful budgeting like past programs, and I believe we can do it with this, too,” she said.

The cost of trash collection is part of the budget meaning taxpayers pay for it indirectly through taxes.

We talked with a couple of city council members who said much of their reaction will depend on what proposal the mayor sends to them. Even so, they expect to get substantial input from the public.

“In our pilot project of 2,500 people, recycling went up substantially with those who had a covered 96-gallon bin so that is one of our goals," Stothert said.

We should have a better idea of who will be picking up the trash in 2020 by March.

A committee will make a recommendation to the mayor who will pass it along to the council for a decision on the lowest and best bid.