Wollongong rates up, costs down

There are tough times ahead, but it's not all doom and gloom.

So said a cautiously optimistic Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery on Tuesday, after Wollongong City Council released its 2014-2015 draft annual plan.

The report comes after council embarked on an arduous review of its long-term financial sustainability in August last year to meet a costly infrastructure backlog.

While ratepayers can expect to pay an average 6.23 per cent extra annually under the projected rates rises (subject to approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in June), Cr Bradbery said the plan still delivered good news for the city.

"This council, over the next three years, will be spending around $270 million in capital works," he said.

"When you put it all together that is an incredible injection of money into this city ... the implications of that for the local economy, in terms of employment and the stimulation of the local economy, will be immense."

Ratepayers have also had a small win with waste disposal fees, which will increase a modest 2.8 per cent annually, 0.3 per cent less than the CPI.

While marginal fee hikes would still come as bad news for many households on a tight budget, Cr Bradbery said the city would ultimately benefit from this "responsible" style of budget well into the future.

"I don't want to hide the fact that for some people, to pay that, it will be a challenge, but at the same time, what they're getting in return is the renewal of their city, " he said.

"Whether it be this council or any future council, [because of these budget measures] we are going to be on a more certain, responsible financial footing."

The bulk of the capital expenditure will go towards renewing or rebuilding ageing assets like roads, old buildings, footpaths and cycleways, as well as building new infrastructure in West Dapto.

In addition to that, council has to account for the many issues that arise from the city's challenging geography including managing beach vegetation and erosion as well as ocean pools and managing stormwater in flood-prone areas.

"We live in a geographically challenging area and it is only really going to get worse because the concentration of people in the area is becoming greater ... so the demands on us to deliver and manage that will only become more challenging," Cr Bradbery said.

"It's a beautiful part of the world but it comes at a great price and I don't think we, at times, appreciate that."

Wollongong council draws back from cuts

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