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Landfill

Proposed increases in landfill fees in the city's budget will likely be passed on to residents.

The mayor's proposed city budget maintains the same property tax rate, so most homeowners will see no increase in their city property tax bill next year.  

But the average homeowner will likely be paying an additional $39 to $48 a year for city-run services, based on increased fees in Mayor Chris Beutler’s budget proposal. 

Business owners will likely see an increase in property taxes since a countywide reassessment of commercial property raised many values.

The mayor’s two-year budget plan increases many of the city fees -- in parks and recreation, for health department licensing and permit fees and for ambulance services.

But the fee increases proposed for the landfill and for water and wastewater services are the most far-reaching, affecting most city residents and businesses.

The water and wastewater increases will add $29.76 the first year and $31.08 the second year to the bills for an average four-person household, based on estimates done by Public Works and Utilities.

The landfill fee and occupation tax increases could add $9 to $18 a year to a homeowner's refuse bill, based on estimates by the industry.

Increases in landfill gate fees and occupation taxes are based on tonnage and charged to haulers when they use the landfill.

However, local refuse haulers often pass those costs on to their customers.

In the past four years, between 2015 to 2018, haulers had a 39 percent increase in landfill fees and occupation taxes, said Ryan Hatten, with Paragon Sanitation and president of Lincoln Solid Waste and Recycling Association. 

“It’s pretty hard not to pass that on to customers,” he said.

The Public Works and Utilities Department has been budgeting 5 percent annual increases for solid waste, water and wastewater services as a way to keep up with capital costs, said Donna Garden, assistant director.

Council members, now studying Beutler's two-year budget proposal, will offer their suggested changes to the plan for discussion at a July 12 council meeting. 

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for July 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

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Council members Roy Christensen and Cyndi Lamm expressed concern about the fee hikes.

But Christensen said his biggest concern is the 5 to 6 percent increase in the overall budget, which far outstrips inflation and city growth.

About 80 percent of the city budget is personnel-related. Wage increases, required by the Commission of Industrial Relations, fuel that growth.  

That problem can only be cured by the Legislature, which created the CIR system, Christensen said.

Councilman Carl Eskridge said the modest annual increases in fees are preferable to big jumps. 

The council has asked city departments to use fees to pay for at least part of the services offered, Eskridge said. And businesses have told him they prefer the city raise fees incrementally over the years rather than in periodic big jumps.

Water and wastewater

The proposed additional funding, bringing in about $6.3 million over the two-year budget period, includes money for expansion of the wastewater system into the Stevens Creek area, and to replace 7 miles of older water mains each of the next two years, said Garden.

In the second year of the two-year budget, the department plans to begin saving $1 million a year for the costs of hooking up to a second source of water for the city, perhaps bringing water from the Missouri River.

Garden noted Lincoln water and wastewater bills were fifth-lowest among more than 40 cities, in a comparison done by the city of Memphis.  

Landfill and solid waste

The proposed fee and occupation tax increases would bring in about $1.4 million over the next two years. 

The money would be used to increase the gas well system, add another cell to the landfill and replace expensive equipment like a $1.1 million bulldozer. The city also plans to begin saving about $650,000 a year for eventual closure costs of the current Bluff Road and 48th Street landfills.

The budget includes $300,000 a year for the cost of additional recycling at the city’s free sites, which more people are using since the city banned corrugated cardboard from the landfill in April.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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