Councillors support Shellharbour rate rise

Shellharbour City Councillors have endorsed a proposal for a series of rate rises that could add around $400 to the average rates bill by 2016-17.

The special rate variation will need the approval of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and will be subject to further community consultation.

The rate rises are contained in the council’s Draft Delivery Program 2013-2017 document which will be on exhibition from March 2 to April 2.

The decision to endorse the rate hikes came on the back of a controversial IRIS poll that the council said found more than 60 per cent of Shellharbour residents would support a rate increase above the rate peg of 3.4 per cent.

Under the plan rates will increase by 8.4 per cent in 2013/14, 9 per cent in 2014/15, 10 per cent in 2015-16 and 10 per cent in 2016-17.

Councillors voted 4-2 to move forward with the proposal, with councillors Peter Moran and Kellie Marsh voting against.

Councillor John Murray said the standard of some of Shellharbour’s assets was ‘‘pretty ordinary’’ and this was coupled with the need to fund the ongoing management of assets.

‘‘To find the money we need this special rate variation,’’ Cr Murray said.

‘‘I am heartened by the fact the IRIS survey found 60 per cent of the population accepted they were willing to pay a little more as long as they could see some results.’’

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Cr Moran said he probably would have supported as smaller rate rise, but this was too large.

‘‘Under this proposal we are looking at a compound increase of about 44 per cent over four years ... we will see average rate bills increase from around $900 to $1300 a year,’’ he said.

‘‘Residents are being told the council can afford to build a $55 million city hub, but at the same time told the council can’t maintain a road.’’

Cr Helen Stewart said endorsing the rate rise was not a decision she made lightly but the city needed to ‘‘face reality’’. The council needed to be mindful of what it was leaving for future generations, she said.

‘‘We are a growing city and the council has previously failed to adequately maintain infrastructure and facilities,’’ Cr Stewart said.

‘‘Do we want to see the city move forward .. if we don’t have a rate rise the city will sit dormant.

‘‘The city is ageing, the infrastructure is ageing and we need to do something now.’’

The recommendation of IPART and community feedback will form the basis for council’s final decision which will be made in June.

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