Your views sought on ‘funding our future’ rate rises

COFFS Harbour City Council is considering applying for two consecutive ordinary general rate rises so it can carry on providing the community services that Coffs Harbour ratepayers have made clear they want to see continue.

A background pamphlet and survey information is being sent next week to all ratepayers outlining why the council is proposing to apply for 8.14% in 2015-16 and 7.75% in 2016-17.

These rises include the expected 3% rate pegging limit set annually by the NSW Government. It would also be in addition to the 7.9% rate rise put in place for 2014-15.

Overall, it would mean a cumulative increase across two years of 16.5% on ordinary general rates.

"I'd like to assure everyone that we're not taking this step lightly, we completely understand that households and businesses have many other bills to pay," general manager Steve McGrath said.

"But if we're to continue to provide the current level of council services - and the community has made very clear in previous polls and consultation that it wants to keep them as they are - we have to find a way to pay for them. Like any household, we can't spend more than we earn."

The gap that needs to be bridged to put the community in a financially sustainable position is about $6million per year. The primary cause of this gap is State Government 'rate pegging' legislation, which over more than 30 years has meant increases in revenue have not kept pace with inflation or CPI.

Cost-shifting has also been another major factor. The council is now responsible for a number of extra services that were previously the responsibility of State or Federal governments and these cost $4.4m a year to deliver.

The council looks after about $2billion worth of public assets - including more than 800km of roads, 170 bridges, 200km of stormwater pipes, 300 buildings and 55 playgrounds. Through the years, funding for repair and renewal of this infrastructure has gradually been reduced to help fund other council works.

"We need to spend an additional $4.2m every year just repairing and renewing our infrastructure so that it remains in a condition that means we can keep delivering the services the community wants," Mr McGrath said.

"As well as the community consultation over services, council continually reviews of all its services to see how they can be further improved and made as cost-effective as possible.

"In addition, a Transformation to Sustainability program, including a restructure, is under way within council, which will eventually yield annual savings of $3.2m."

With a proposed 8.14% increase for 2015-16 and 7.75% for 2016-17, the average residential property owner can expect an approximate increase of $166.22 in their ordinary general rates across the two financial years.

If rates were just raised by the expected rate pegging increase of 3% for 2015-16 and 2016-17, the average residential property owner could expect an approximate increase of $61.27 in their ordinary general rates across the two financial years.

Ratepayers will shortly receive the pamphlet outlining the financial issues and asking them to put forward their views via a short online survey, or by using the enclosed pre-paid postcard questionnaire. Hard copies of the survey can also be completed at libraries and the council's main administration office.

The survey closes on January 30.

More information can be found on the council's website.

The results of the consultation will be put to the council at its meeting of February 12, and a decision will be made on whether or not to submit an application for a special rate variation to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

Applications to the tribunal must be submitted by February 16

INFORMATION STALLS

  • Thursday, November 27 and December 11: Growers Community Market, City Square, 10am-1pm.
  • Sunday, December 7 and January 11: Harbourside Market, 10am-noon.


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