Rate capping is now a fact of council life and I congratulate the government in enacting these laws.
For the last 15 years I believe councils in general have taken the ‘Magic Pudding’ approach to ratepayers when budget time came around. Spend up big and tap the ratepayer for the funds.
Despite the local government act stating rate rises should be determined after considering ratepayers capacity to pay, councils seemingly just kept jacking them up by seven per cent per annum each and every year since 2000.
I also believe that we can reduce the rate demand on the ratepayer without cutting services since we have a large amount of unrequired infrastructure presently funded within the 15 year budget.
Returning those monies will allow lower rates rises, lower overall rate burden and all without cutting services or infrastructure renewals.
As the records show, the MAV put out a table showing that South Gippsland was the fifth highest rating shire in the state. Not something we should be proud of and some are, I know, saying this ranking is inaccurate. Saying that a new service (the greenwaste bin charge) is new so it should not be counted as a rate rise when ratepayers get charged that on their rates notice is mind boggling nonsense.
A rate rise is a rate rise whether it is for existing service delivery or additional services being delivered. That sort of intellectual sophism gets applied to the funding for the municipal offices project as well by some when they state that it will not be funded for 10 years.
Clearly it will not be paid for for 10 years but we the ratepayers are all paying for its funding now.
This year’s rates bill included a sizable whack for the municipal offices-despite no conclusion being reached yet!
Last week at council I moved a motion for the second time, again requesting councillors to receive a report on ways to bring in a sustainable two per cent budget over 15 years. Again, the majority block voted not to receive this report.
Further, they used their majority in council to vote down the second part to the motion which would have required the officers to bring in a two per cent budget for the next 15 years.
Why is this so difficult to approve? Why do the majority block councillors seemingly approve the maximum rate rises possible year in year out rather than take the opportunity to reduce the rate burden for their community?
Rate capping made council bring in a three per cent budget for the next seven years because we all knew that rates were likely to be capped around 2.5per cent.
Would that have happened without rate capping? I doubt it.
The report shows how revenue can be raised from other than ratepayer pocket sources and how we can transform the way council does business from the usual approach (hit the ratepayer) to a business strategy approach.
Despite the majority block voting these ideas down for two years in a row now, the officers have been slowly incorporating many of these ideas and only just last month they presented a report on Coal Creek showing how we could raise around $60,000 per year from defined activities.
This figure was double the figure I used in my calculations for the two per cent budget and show how conservative my calculations have been.
Yet the majority block write my figures off as unreliable but give no evidentiary reasoning to back up their assertions.
We can be proud of what the officers have been able to include from ideas put forward by Cr McEwen and myself over the last two budgets despite the majority block on council stymying all attempts at directing the officers to bring in a sustainable two per cent budget.
If you had attended last week’s council meeting you would have heard the majority block telling all that it was not just two councillors that put forward those particular ideas the officers included in this and last year’s budget from the budget briefing sessions throughout the year.
Whilst that may be true to an extent, it would make their constant voting down of receiving a report detailing those ideas rather difficult to comprehend.
Further to this, when I presented a powerpoint presentation to council earlier this year the officers requested direction from the councillors as to what if any of those ideas so presented should be included in the budget papers.
The response from the majority block was to inform the officers not to incorporate any of the ideas I presented into the budget. No reasoned discussion at the time, just a flat refusal without caring to say why not.
The CEO recently completed a staff restructure. It has been stated that we have ongoing savings from that process of around half a per cent.
If Council had determined so last week, we could have recognised those savings and immediately reduced the projected rate rises by that amount.
If we were to refuse to build the Splash hydrotherapy pool at a cost of $2 million we would save annual ongoing costs of a further half a per cent.
This with the staff savings makes one per cent savings each year. That would give us a two per cent budget for the next seven years and not much more work to get the next eight years down to the same level. We just require some desire and commitment.
How does this sound for an idea? Implement the two per cent budget now, begin work on a new business strategy and reduce the rate burden over the next 15 years without reducing services.
Some may protest that I am making this all sound too easy, or just maybe they find it all too hard.
Cr Don Hill, Tarwin Valley Ward, Wild Dog Valley