South East councils defend steep rate hike proposal amid community criticism

The Bega Valley and Snowy Monaro councils have both taken steps to implement a proposal for a significant rate increase to deal with what they call rising operating costs.

This week, Bega Valley Council voted to put forward plans proposing a 35% increase in fares on public display.

Bega Valley Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the council forecast a deficit of $6.6 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“Unless our financial situation improves significantly over the long term, services will continue to be reduced. »

A man in a blazer smiles at the camera, his arms crossed behind his back.
Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said any potential rate increases would be applied to the base rate only.(ABC News)

Mr Fitzpatrick said the county was one of the largest on the NSW coast by size, with more assets per capita than most other LGAs.

“With a small population, the revenue we generate through tariffs and royalties is not enough to cover the costs of our operations. »

However, he stressed that any potential rate hikes would be applied to the base rate.

“It is important to understand that this increase, if approved, would only affect the base rate, not the full rate notice which for some residents also includes water, sewer and utility charges. waste in addition to the general tariff component,” he said.

view of the Bega Valleyview of the Bega Valley
The proposed rate increase has already sparked widespread debate within the Bega Valley community.(Provided)

Locals criticize proposal

The proposal has already sparked wide debate within the Bega Valley community.

Bega Valley resident Virginia Alcock said the council should review its own spending before asking paymasters for more money.

“I wasn’t very happy about it,” she said.

“A lot of people are still recovering from the fallout from the fires and COVID, and 35% more than what they’re already trying to deal with, it’s a hell of a hike. »

Another resident, Adrian Veer, agreed that the scale of the increase was concerning.

“I would have to look at the details, but that seems very excessive to me,” he said.

“I imagine there would be a lot of internal cleaning that could be done to save money, rather than opting for such an increase. »

the main street of cooma with parked cars and someone crossing the roadthe main street of cooma with parked cars and someone crossing the road
The Snowy Monaro Council has also released plans to increase its rates.(ABC News: Ewan Gilbert)

Snowy Monaro floats on higher rates

The Snowy Monaro Council also voted yesterday to release plans to increase its rates, with one of four options proposing an increase of up to 9% per year over the next decade.

In a statement, the Snowy Monaro board said:

“The modest increase in rates and the lack of options for increases would mean that the Council has no choice but to cut and reduce services, community facilities and staff.

“The option that includes a higher rate increase over the next ten years would mean that the Council is able to continue on its way to a balanced budget. »

Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce chairman Olivier Kapentanakos said while it was known that a rate hike was being considered, the scale of the increase was shocking.

“They basically double the rates,” he said.

A man in a red button down shirt and blue jeans stands with his hands in his pocket by a lakeA man in a red button down shirt and blue jeans stands with his hands in his pocket by a lake
President of the Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce, Olivier Kapentanakos believes that a detailed financial analysis is necessary.(ABC Southeast: Keira Proust)

Kapentanakos said detailed financial analysis was needed, as was better communication about the council’s plans for tariffs.

“The community understands the increases in the cost of living, we see it every day, and even if the community doesn’t like it, unfortunately that’s the reality,” he said.

“But as a council, they have a responsibility to communicate much more effectively than they currently do. »

In the meantime, the Eurobodalla board has stated that it will not request a special tariff variation and proposes to increase the general rate and the environmental tax by 1.7% in 2022/23, in line with the rate anchor approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

The Eurobodalla Board’s 2022-32 Long Term Financial Plan is currently available for community comment.

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