Shoalhaven City Council reconvened yesterday’s meeting to discuss a rescission motion on the proposed rates increase.
It was determined at the meeting that:
- Council receive the feedback and results of the community engagement;
- Council endorse a financial sustainability approach that includes continued improvement in our procurement and asset management practices and improving productivity and implementing a Special Rate Variation;
- Council authorise staff to make formal application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) and lodge a Section 508A Special Rate Variation (SRV) on general income for an increase of 11.5% in 2017/18 and 11.5% in 2018/19, above rate peg for each of the 2 years in order for Council to financially support the ongoing provision of service levels to the community and increase levels of asset maintenance and renewal;
- Staff provide a report to the next Ordinary Council Meeting on the establishment of a Citizen’s Panel to provide recommendations to Council on priority areas for expenditure related to the Special Rate Variation;
- Council accept the submission from The Shoalhaven Independents on behalf of the ratepayers and residents who attended protest meetings at St Georges Basin, Bomaderry, Huskisson and Nowra as part of the overall submissions and the submission also be reported to IPART;
- The General Manager report back to Council on how Council could capture any business that is operating from residential premises and re-categorise to business and if there are any legislative hurdles should Council wish to pursue this as an ongoing part of revenue review. This should include the cost for resourcing such a project- this suggestion was put to Council by concerned ratepayers;
- The General Manager report back if any other Councils apply a levy or any other mechanism to increase rates on those properties that are known to supply accommodation to the tourism industry and are essentially a business- these properties would be those listed by real estate agents and online mechanisms such as Air BnB and Stayz –this suggestion has been raised by concerned business operators;
- The General Manager also report back on any measures that can be used to essentially pass some of the financial burden of maintaining assets onto the many tourist that come to the Shoalhaven, suggestions that have come through include parking meters for peak tourist times and places and bed taxes. The report should also include any legislative or resourcing issues for such matters;
- In reporting back could the General Manager please comment on any timing issues that could be foreseen if such mechanisms were to be adopted by Council; and
- Council refer the matters raised by an Independent Auditor in a recent confidential meeting with councillors to Council’s Risk & Audit committee for consideration and any further advice.
Council staff will now commence a submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).The IPART is the final decision maker in the process. The decision of Council does not mean that a rate rise will be implemented immediately. IPART must first consider Council’s submission which will include all of the submissions and community feedback that has been provided to Council. IPART may choose to either approve the proposal, refuse the proposal or approve a smaller rate increase.
The decision of IPART is expected to be received in the coming months and will be provided back to Council for consideration and determination of the next steps forward.
Council will also be shortly commencing engagement on our Community Strategic Plan and Delivery and Operational Plan which sets the direction for the future and any proposed expenditure of the rates and this will be another opportunity for the community to have their say on the expenditure of Council funds for 2017/18.
Mayor Findley said, “It continues to be suggested by some that the financial statements that Councillors are relying on for this decision are not factual. I would like it to be made very clear that I have full confidence that the financial statements provided to me and on which this decision has been made comply with all state government legislation and have been recently audited by an external auditor. I have full confidence in the staff that have prepared these statements.”
“I remind the community that there is information on Council’s website including financial information and within the Council report. There is also a number of frequently asked questions and information sheets. I encourage our community that have questions to view this information and read Councils report on the matter.
“I also encourage the community to continue to stay engaged in the process, submissions can continue to be accepted by and will be forwarded to IPART for their consideration.”