By LEE McDOUGALL
A BALANCED budget and a citywide list of projects in two distinct parts, form the basis for Coffs Harbour City Council's 2006/09 management plan, adopted on Thursday evening.
But what does it mean to you, the reader and possibly ratepayer? Well, sit tight, and read on.
The bottom line ? for the first time in many years the council has delivered a balanced budget. Previous years has seen a deficit, on average, of around the $500,000 mark.
Your back pocket ? the council will seek a 9.5 per cent rate variation comprising a special six per cent rate variation in addition to the expected 3.5 per cent increase set by the State Government (this equates to an average increase of $1.92 a week, or $100.07 a year).
Business to pay ? the council to seek ministerial approval to extend the special business city centre rate for a further three years to enable additional borrowing of $1.4m to pay for improvement works.
And the bang for your buck? For the city centre business community, the three-year extension of the current special city centre rate will fund five major projects, most significantly the removal of the Gordon Street/Harbour Drive roundabout.
For residents ? a community facilities program comprising 11 projects from Corindi to Sawtell
IN announcing the decision to ask for a three-year extension of the city centre rate, Cr Ian Hogbin said this was not a 'grab for cash'.
"It is important that we continue to progress the CBD," Cr Hogbin said.
"This is not a rate rise. It is a request to our business community for an extension of the existing rate to conduct improvements in the CBD. Parking is one of our main issues and this will provide 190 extra all-day car parking spots in the city centre."
In defending the 9.5 per cent special rate increase, the mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said for the past 30 years the State Government had, through rate pegging, allowed an annual increase of around 3.5 per cent, yet yearly inflation was far higher.
"We start each year behind the eight ball," Cr Rhoades said.
"This council has not had a rate variation (above the annual 3.5 per cent) in more than 20 years and that is why deficits have occurred year after year.
"Last year the State Government rejected the council's application for a 21.32 per cent rate variation. However, in the submissions we received, many ratepayers indicated that a smaller rate variation would be acceptable to achieve the infrastructure goals set by the community.
"We listened to those comments and set about identifying a list of shorter-term goals that would still deliver vital facilities to the community at a much lower cost."
The 2006/2009 draft management plan will be on display for public comment from Monday until April 18. It can be seen at the council administration building foyer, at the three branch libraries, on the council website, at Karangi, Coramba, Nana Glen and Red Rock general stores, at Corindi Beach Post Office, at Ulong RTC, and at the Coffs Harbour Visitor In- formation Centre..