Wollongong rates to rise 20% over three years

Wollongong City Council’s plan to raise rates by up to 20.8 per cent over the next three years has received the official go-ahead.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved the council’s application for a special rate variation which will allow the council to progressively lift its overall rates by 6.13 per cent, 6.23 per cent and 6.24 per cent a year.

However, the increases will affect different types of ratepayers in varying ways, with average residential rates rising 20.3 per cent – or $238 – between July this year and 2016-17.

Business commercial rates will increase by 20.8 per cent, mining rates will rise 20.3per cent and farming rates will go up 18.5 per cent in the three-year period.

According to IPART, these increases will generate an extra $29 million for the council, and will be used to fund infrastructure maintenance and renewal, maintain services and improve the council’s financial sustainability.

Wollongong was one of 32 NSW councils to apply for a rate variation, and all but one – Weddin Shire Council – had their applications approved.

IPART chairman Dr Peter Boxall said Wollongong had demonstrated ‘‘a clear need for the additional revenue, that they had appropriately engaged the community about the proposed rate increases, and that they are taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs’’.

‘‘Some in the community have raised concerns with the council and with IPART about the affordability of the increases and the efficiency of the council,’’ he said.

‘‘Although these concerns are valid, and the proposed increases are significant, the council was able to demonstrate that it has weighed up community concerns by modifying its original proposal, and that the impact on ratepayers has been considered.’’

The council said IPART’s approval meant its draft annual plan and budget, which was put on public exhibition in May, would be able to be considered by councillors at their June 23 meeting.

‘‘This is a vital step in ensuring we can keep the assets of the community in good shape, now and into the future,’’ general manager David Farmer said.

Should councillors vote to accept the annual budget, rates will increase from July 1.

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