Rate rise plan

Friday, 20th May, 2011

Residents and businesses, and the mining companies, will be paying more this year if City Council ups rates by almost three percent across the board.

City Council held an extraordinary meeting last night at which they considered a recommendation to raise rates by 2.98 per cent in 2011-12. 

One option would cost the average household an extra $28 a year and businesses an average of $136 extra a year, based on the average value land parcel.

The rate increase would be fractionally smaller if councillors voted for a second option which was to apply the 2.98 per cent increase to the mines as well.

If this was done, average households (based on the average value residential land parcel) would pay an extra $20 a year and businesses $105.

Rate income from mining was capped at $3.29 million for five years in the financial year 2009-10.

The two options were presented to Council by the General Manager, Frank Zaknich, in his draft operational plan for 2011-12 at last night's meeting.

It would be open for public comment for the next month.

"Whichever option is adopted doesn't impact on Council's overall rates income, it just redistributes the income between the various categories depending on which model council adopts," Mr Zaknich said after the meeting.

Mr Zaknich told councillors that Council was facing higher costs. Its water and 
electricity bill, for instance, was forecast to rise by 17 to 20 percent.

"This is an estimated increase of $170,000 to $210,000 for electricity alone, based on current estimates," Mr Zaknich reported.
Council's revenue from its investments would remain static, he said, at $500,000 per year owing to Council's ill-advised investment in the American sub-

prime mortgage market which collapsed and triggered the global financial crisis. 

Employees' award wages were forecast to rise by four percent or $500,000 (part year) and workers' compensation by $220,000. This last figure was based on claims lodged over the past three years, Mr Zaknich said in his report. 

Council would review employee numbers due to recent improvements in information technology and business processes, according to the report.
"... a review of employee numbers will again be required with the corresponding review of Council's organisational structure and non-core business units," Mr Zaknich noted.

The public would also be expected to contribute to the cost of the city's new swimming pool under the plan. It is currently in the last stages of redevelopment, estimated to cost $596,000.

The entry fee could double from $2 to $4 per person, although family and season passes would be available at a lower rate.

Council has a $9.43 million capital infrastructure program. The most expensive item in the 2011/12 plan is the Perilya heavy vehicle bypass. This was forecast to cost $5million but Perilya and the NSW Government were expected to contribute. 

Resealing local roads had a price tag of $840,000 and a further $355,000 was marked for rebuilding some footpaths.

Upgrading the fire services at the caravan park, and the air conditioning at the city library was expected to cost $250,000 each.

The cost of replacing the fleet of light vehicles and heavy truck was set at $320,000

Mr Zaknich said Council would have to draw on its reserves or seek loans and grants to pay for the planned work and that some of it might have to be deferred unless extra funding could be found. 

Expenditure might also have to be cut and services reduced "if it is to undertake such programs in the future," he said. 

Mr Zaknich said the public could comment on the plan which would go on display later this week until June 17 with submissions considered by Council at next month's ordinary monthly meeting on June 29.

Draft plan community, business and service club information sessions would also be held.