Seven per cent rate rise for Coffs

RATE bills in Coffs Harbour will rise by an average of $112.06 this financial year.

The State Government yesterday gave the go-ahead to a special rate variation for the Local Government Area which will primarily fund flood mitigation.

Pensioners will see their residential rate bills rise by an average of $110.91 and farmers will see an average increase of $120.25.

Earlier this year, Coffs Harbour City Council applied for a rate variation of 4.4 per cent on top of the State Government capped rate increase of 2.6 per cent – a total general rate increase of seven per cent that was granted by the NSW Minister for Local Government, Barbara Perry.

Nambucca Shire Council, suffering badly from flood damage and ageing infrastructure, was also granted a rate increase of 5.04 per cent.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s director of corporate business Craig Milburn said yesterday the 2.6 per cent rate pegging increase would earn the council $784,000 but the council was facing a $900,000 increase in its award wages bill from November 1.

Of the approved 4.4 per cent, three per cent will be used to fund a $6 million loan over 10 years to pay for flood mitigation work, particularly retention basins, the early warning system and work on overland flow paths in the city centre and 1.4 per cent ($500,000) will go towards “a whole range of things throughout the local government area”.

Mr Milburn pointed out that the 4.4 per cent increase was fixed for 10 years and would be taken away from the council at the end of the decade.

The rate rise is imposed only on the general rate section of rates bills. The effect of just the extra 4.4 per cent on the average residential property’s rate bill will be about $37.

Yesterday residents seemed resigned to the rate increase.

They come on top of rises in water and sewerage charges; a 13 per cent increase to Country Energy electricity prices and increases to car registration and Green slip costs.

Coffs Coast home owners affected by last year’s floods are also bearing the brunt of increases in insurance premiums this year, while smokers are also feeling the effects of a steep increase in the price of cigarettes.

One pensioner said there was nothing she could do to offset the rate rise, apart from taking in a paying boarder but she was turning off the heater and putting on an extra jumper to keep electricity costs down.

A resident we contacted was more concerned about his green slip, which rose from $319 last year to $477, with an extra premium added because his car was more than 10 years old. After he protested, the insurance company reduced the price to $414 but he said this was still an increase of almost $100, which put his rate rise in the shade.

Coffs Harbour’s average household income of $860 (2007 data) is well below the NSW average of $1285 and the city struggles with a high percentage of retirees and pensioners; a big burden of roads, bridges and reserves and a high demand for services from new residents moving from the city to local coastal communities.

Mr Milburn said yesterday none of this was taken into consideration by the NSW Government in terms of rates.

He said in the council’s submission for a rate rise, it had compared Coffs to Sydney’s Hurstville across a range of measures, which demonstrated graphically the much smaller rating base and much higher infrastructure burden Coffs was carrying, yet the average rate in Hurstville was $100 higher than in Coffs Harbour.

He said Coffs Harbour’s average rate bill was $1984, of which the ordinary (general) rate made up $796.67

Council’s general rate income is $30.1 million a year but its total annual turnover is $130 million.

Of this 60 per cent comes from rates, fees and charges and the balance from grants and other State and Federal funding.

The rate rise approval takes the council two-thirds of the way into its $18 million, nine-point flood mitigation plan, approved by councillors last year. Mr Milburn said they were lobbying the Federal and State Governments for grant funding for the final $6m.



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