Shoalhaven City Council will consider the special rate variation to commence in 2017/18 at an extra ordinary meeting on Wednesday, 1 February at the Shoalhaven City Council Chambers at 5pm.
The Council is currently seeking feedback from the community so that Council can be informed on the 1st February about community views when they make this decision. Public consultation for the proposed special rate rise has included information posted to ratepayers, e-newsletters, surveys and social media feedback, a community telephone survey and meeting with Community Consultation Bodies (CCB) Executives. Feedback can be provided by sending a letter or email or visiting Councils website.
The proposal to apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for a special rate variation above the rate peg, is being put forward to address the funding gap that continues to grow in maintaining and renewing infrastructure and providing services for the community.
Director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Milburn, said he acknowledges that the impact of the proposed rate increases may be difficult for some community members, but despite making operational savings and productivity improvements, an increase is necessary to maintain the services provided for our City now and into the future.
“The proposed special rate variation would provide additional income to allow Council to renew and maintain road infrastructure and buildings at a standard that the community expects in the future. This is one of the reasons for the proposal to increase rates.”
“Council aims to meet the needs of our community with services and facilities and to ensure that the assets that we have are maintained to a satisfactory level. Council is unable to meet these needs in the years ahead with its current rates revenue,” said Mr Milburn.
Council continues to seek feedback from the community about how the proposed rate variations will impact them. An average increase for a property under Option 1 with current rates of $1000 will be approximately $130 in the first year, this equates to $2.50 per week. Everyone’s situation is different and we understand some community members may be impacted by this more than others. Council has in place a Hardship Policy to assist anyone having difficulties in paying their rates. Pensioners who have a principal place of residence in the Shoalhaven can also apply to Council for a maximum $250 pensioner subsidy.
With consideration of the community feedback, Councillors will make a decision on the application for the variation to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal on the 1 February 2017.
Council would also like to clarify statements that were made by Councillor Guile on the radio that “over the last 2 years this Council has made a $40 million surplus that Council is raking in the cash, that cash reserves have almost tripled and it’s that serious about how much we are hoarding the community’s cash”.
Acting General Manager Ben Stewart advised that Councillor Guile was stating the consolidated accounts and did not mention the surplus related to water and sewer operations. The special rate variation is related to the General Fund which has been running a deficit. If there is no significant increase in revenue or reduction in expenditure, this will continue.
Additionally the cash reserves held by Council have not tripled as was stated. The General Fund cash reserves have only increased by 30% in the past two years. This increase has been seen in the restricted reserves, however the unrestricted component of the General Fund cash reserve has declined by $2.4 million in the past two years to only $5.3 million at 30 June 2016.