Council stuck on States rate peg

NAMBUCCA Shire Council is to tell the State Government exactly what it thinks of its rate pegging policy – and it is inviting councils across New South Wales to do the same.

Frustrations about rate pegging emerged on Thursday night during debate on the council’s draft budget.

Nambucca Mayor, Cr Rhonda Hoban, said the 2.6 per cent increase allowed by the State Government would result in many councils going backwards.

“We are facing a 3.4 per cent increase in wages and yet can’t increase our rates revenue beyond the level of inflation (2.6 per cent). It just doesn’t make sense,” Cr Hoban said.

The council’s general manager, Michael Coulter, said the fact that council’s are being forced to draft their budgets so early in the year was making the exercise particularly onerous.

“The State Government has changed the rules this year and is making us draw up our budgets for the next financial year before we know if we will get the special rate variation we have applied for, and well before we know with any certainty how our current budget has performed,” Mr Coulter said.

Nambucca Council’s financial manager Craig Dolan presented a relatively balanced draft budget for 2010/11.

He pointed out, however, that it would still be a couple of months before council knew whether its expected $205,000 surplus for the current financial year eventuated. “If that doesn’t happen we will have to completely redraw the draft budget,” Mr Doolan said.

The mayor said uncertainty should be addressed now rather than later.

“We can’t put ourselves in a position where we start the new financial year in deficit. Things will only get worse if that happens,” she said.

The council has applied for a one per cent special rate variation to replace the Deep Creek Bridge that was irreparably damaged in last year’s flood and repair Riverside Drive at Nambucca Heads.

“If we don’t get the one per cent rise we will have to make big cuts to the draft budget,” Cr Hoban said.

Savings already identified were not replacing a part-time receptionist position at the council chambers and cutting contributions to the Clarence Regional Library.

“The State Government has not increased it’s spending on library services for 30 years and while in the past we have been happy to increase our annual contributions by 10 per cent, this year we just can’t justify that,” the Mayor said.

“I want our general manager to write to the Minister for Local Government expressing our disappointment that rate pegging has been set at the rate of inflation when he should be aware of the infrastructure backlog across the state, and that council’s real costs, including wages, are far in excess of inflation.”

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