Wollongong council seeks 8% rate rise

Wollongong City Council is one of 36 NSW councils to notify the state regulator of its intent to apply for a rate rise next year.

This means more than half the state’s 152 councils have applied to up their rates since 2012, after 43 councils increased their rates in the past two years.

In a letter to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal on December 12, Wollongong council’s general manager David Farmer flagged an increase of between  5  and 8 per cent for three years to help find an extra $21million a year.

Three years of pain: rates and fees up, services cut

Cumulatively, these proposed rate increases would total between 16 and 25 per cent.

Mr Farmer noted the council had already found about $20 million in annual savings through ‘‘operational improvements’’ but said more was needed to maintain assets valued at $4 billion.

‘‘[The] council continues to operate in deficit, and requires a further $21million per annum improvement over a three to five-year period to fully fund depreciation and achieve a small operating surplus.’’ 

He said the proposed rate increase would raise between $8.4 million and $16.5 million.

 ‘‘[The council] would bridge the balance with a mix of efficiency targets, changes to service levels and, potentially, additional fees and charges,’’ he said.

Wollongong’s financial review follows a government-led overhaul of local government finances designed to ensure councils remain financially viable in future.

In April, the NSW Treasury Corporation assessed all state councils, finding Wollongong to be in a moderate financial position.

A quarter of the state’s council were found to be in a ‘‘weak’’ or ‘‘very weak’’ position, and more than half were projected to end up in a very weak state if nothing was done to improve their finances.

In comparison to Wollongong’s planned increase, the similarly-sized Newcastle City Council has requested a one-off increase of 1.1 per cent on top of next year’s 2.3 per cent rate peg.

However, despite modest rate rise plans this year, Newcastle council also flagged future plans to apply for higher rate increases in the 2015-16 financial year.

In Liverpool, the council has outlined three rate scenarios, which could see rates increase up to 11.5per cent a year on top of the statewide rise.

Rockdale City Council is asking for a 6 per cent rate increase for four years, while Ku-ring-gai Council wants a permanent 5per cent annual rate rise.

Councils have until February 24 to finalise applications with IPART.

Wollongong residents can have their say on three budget scenarios until February 5 at haveyoursaywollongong.com.au.

- A previous version of this story valued council assets at $4 million. This was a typo and should have read $4 billion.

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