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Mayor backs another rise for residents

Monday, 3rd March, 2014

By Erica Visser

City Council should shift the rates burden from the mining companies onto businesses and residents for another year, according to the mayor.

Last financial year, Council decided to redistribute $872,000 in rates from the mines to businesses and residents, who each took on 50 per cent.

In 2012, Perilya lodged an appeal against the NSW Valuer-General over a 2007 land valuation.

Mayor Wincen Cuy said last year that the rates shift was overdue and that it was better if Council reduced its dependence on mining gradually.

Businesses reported struggling under the rate shift, which meant some paid over $1000 more than the previous year, while residents paid an extra $71.

Mayor Cuy said the city should continue to reduce its reliance on mining and he would support another redistribution for the 2014/2015 financial year.

“My personal opinion is we should look at another redistribution of mining rates, but nowhere near the amount we did last year,” he said

“And the proportion between businesses and residents should change. The research says that our rates for businesses are proportionally higher than our average for residents.”

Asked whether locals could afford the increase, Mayor Cuy said they would have no choice if mining stopped.

“What if CBH and Perilya closes tomorrow and the community has to absorb the 20 per cent distribution of rates? How would they feel then?

“What we’re trying to do is prepare for the future and the impact won’t be nowhere near as severe.

“We need to get down to realistic rates so the impact on the city isn’t dramatic when the mines do close.”

But Labor Councillor Darriea Turley said she was worried that some people could not afford to pay higher rates for a second consecutive year.

“We have a high percentage of people on some form of benefits and I don’t know if the community could handle that,” Clr Turley said.

“That’s a good argument that the mayor has put forward but I think we need to push ourselves a little further ... to access funding opportunities.”

Clr Turley said it was important to see the “bigger picture”, particularly when Council was aiming to reverse its 12-year-old deficit.

“At the moment we need to be actively reviewing opportunities for funding from both state and federal levels but also internally managing our resources better.

“What are we doing about (Financial Assistance Grants)? Are we lobbying to receive these?

“Is there an opportunity to cut back? A simple example is the (Regional Art Gallery). At the opening of any exhibition there was actually free alcohol given and that’s changed.”

The gallery now charges for drinks.

Meanwhile, Council has not sought to charge above the capped rate peg of 2.3 per cent.

Last year the peg was 3.4 per cent and the year before 3.6 per cent.

“You can only go above the rate pegging if you have a specific project and for a certain amount of time,” Mayor Cuy said.

“Last year we looked at doing it (in the wake of Perilya’s appeal) but we didn’t.

“We could apply for it, but we believe that having the rate redistribution last year then a rate pegging increase was enough.”

Thirteen local governments in country NSW have applied to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to increase rates above the cap this year.

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