Rate rise approved for Coffs Harbour

COFFS Harbour ratepayers will be faced with a 16.52% rate increase over the next two years.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved Coffs Harbour City Council's application for a special rate variation this morning, despite drawing 84 public submissions opposing the increase.

Rates will rise 8.14% in 2015/16, and 7.75% the following year. These increases also include the rate peg and will be permanently in place.

It means residential ratepayers will fork out an extra $87 this year, business rates will increase by $280 and farmland by $183, according to IPART estimates.

The decision enables the council to generate an extra $6.56 million over the two years to reduce infrastructure backlogs.

Mayor Denise Knight said it was "good news" for Coffs Harbour.

"It will provide us with the platform we need to continue giving residents the services they want into the future," Cr Knight said.

"We didn't make the application lightly. We totally understand that the question of 'can I afford this rate rise?' is uppermost in people's minds."

Under the council's draft 2015/16 budget, domestic waste service charges would also rise by 12% over the next two years, but water and sewerage annual charges would be frozen.

The overall increase in annual bills would be limited to no more than approximately 3.9% for the average urban ratepayer.

In a statement, IPART chairman Peter Boxall said special variations are designed to give councils the flexibility to generate additional income above the rate peg to meet their specific needs.

"Over the past year, Coffs Harbour City Council has consulted with its community about the proposed rate increases and while these increases will have an impact, we believe this application is reasonable given the clear need for additional revenue to maintain and renew infrastructure." 

"In making these assessments, we have considered each council's long term financial plan, taking into account the financial need of the council and the capacity and willingness of ratepayers to pay the requested increase."

"Although some communities were divided about the increases, the councils have demonstrated that they have provided opportunity for input, and considered the impact on ratepayers."

Last year IPART approved a rate rise for Coffs Harbour City Council for one year, rather than the three years it applied for.

This was because the council did not adequately communicate the proposed rate increases to ratepayers.

Applications are assessed by IPART against the NSW Government's published criteria, with submissions received directly from ratepayers, community groups, business groups and ratepayer associations also considered..

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