ENOUGH: Massive flood mitigation planned.
ENOUGH: Massive flood mitigation planned.

Council proposes 7% rate rise

COFFS Harbour City Council will ask ratepayers to fund the fight against floods.

The proposal to increase ordinary rates 4.4 per cent beyond the pegged allowance of 2.6 per cent would pay a second $6million loan to fund a massive $12m flood mitigation program. For residential ratepayers, the rise equates to $37 per year beyond the current projection.

“When people ask ‘what do I get for that $37’, I’d say it’s a pretty substantial package,” said council’s general manager Stephen Sawtell.

“As a council and a community, we need to take action now and $12million will allow us to do that.

“We can’t wait for the Federal Government money to come; we have to get going on this. We just can’t sit around and wait for funding only to find out we didn’t get it.”

The rate variation proposal will be put before council next Thursday for endorsement.

In total, the proposed rate rise of 7 per cent comprises the approved rate-pegging allowance of 2.6 per cent plus 3 per cent to fund the second $6million loan and 1.4 per cent to fund annual drainage works.

The special variation will be applied for under a 5082 application which allows for single-cause increases and comes with a 10-year maximum term.

The big ticket item on the $12m flood mitigation plan includes $7.4m for flood retention basins in Upper Shephards Lane, Bennetts Road and Spagnolos Road.

Draining of the central business district is earmarked for $2m in funding, general drainage at $1.4m, overflow paths in Gordon Street $700,000 and $300,000 will see the implementation of an early flood warning system.

Council’s director of corporate business Craig Milburn says 30 years of rate pegging has meant long-term, councils present and past, have not been able to keep pace with real costs let alone fund massive infrastructure projects like this.

“The rate pegging of 2.6 per cent for 2010/2011 doesn’t even cover our annual award increases for Council staff,” said Mr Milburn.

And Mr Sawtell said it was difficult for council to tap other sources of funds.

He says cash reserves are low, asset sales potential is minimal but being investigated – a major sell-off of assets in 1996 has left very little in the cupboard – and the asset renewal and maintenance gap was growing exponentially.

Figures released to support the rate rise case reveal the annual asset gap is $11,978,465 and the asset renewal backlog is a whopping $28,818,025.

In outlining the rate variation position to councillors on Thursday, graphs will show since 2004, Coffs Harbour City Council average ordinary rates have tracked below the NSW mean.

After that meeting, and council’s endorsement of the plan, the Draft Delivery Program/Operational Plan will go on display on April 22. Community submissions will be considered on May 25 and formal implementation is set for June 24.

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