Council push for rate rise

COFFS Harbour City Council is to apply for a 'Special Variation' in rates that will see residents pay an average six per cent more from this July.

And local business is to be slugged for as much as 12 per cent as the council attempts to deliver services.

"We have been very open about the challenges we face in attempting to meet the expectations of the Coffs Harbour community without adequate funding," said Stephen Sawtell, Council's General Manager.

"Like all councils in NSW we face an ever-increasing bill to maintain and replace ageing infrastructure and assets.

"Coffs Harbour has been very pro-active in finding sources of income other than government funding or rates. We have also achieved vital water, roads and sewerage infrastructure projects by adopting innovative methods such as the use of Alliance contracting partnerships with the private sector.

"But the stark reality is that we do not have the financial resources to continue to meet community demands, provide facilities that are needed and maintain programs and services. The only option we have is to apply for a rate variation and to make some cuts in programs and services to a level that can be maintained within the budgets available."

The state government is operating a limit or 'peg' on rate rises to around 3.5 per cent for 2008/2009.

Council is proposing to apply for a further 2.5 per cent increase in Residential, Farmland and City Centre Business rates and an additional six per cent increase in the citywide Business rate in 2008/2009.

And the council is also also proposing that these rises are continued for the next five years, until 2013/2014.

The council lists a number of projects the increased rates would fund, including footpath construction, replacing the Little Nymboida Bridge and major repairs to cycleways.

And the revenue from the additional business rate rise would fund a package of economic development initiatives, including $50,000 for something listed as 'Events Facilitation'.

"By securing a rate rise, Council can proceed with important new projects without further straining funding resources that are already committed to existing programs and services," said Mr Sawtell.

With no alternative funding option available, the rate variation will be a central strategy in the council's 2008/2011 Draft Management Plan.

Once adopted, the Draft Management Plan will be placed on public exhibition for at least 28 days.

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