Special Rate Variation: Council wants you to have your say
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council faces significant financial pressures in future budgets.
Council will go out to its community in an extensive community consultation exercise commencing this week, to canvas preferred rate options for the 2012/13 financial year to deliver community services according to its priorities.
Council will face a $2.5 million reduction in its general rates revenue from July 2012 as a result of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) decision to approve a special rate variation of 7.3% above the existing pegged rate increase for this financial year only.
This was essentially a continuation of the rate increase granted for the 2010/11 financial year that allowed Council to invest an additional $1.95 million in road improvements and $500,000 to improving maintenance on parks and reserves. Some of the works completed as a result of this additional funding include the resealing of Ocean Drive, Hastings River Drive and Clifton Drive, increased parks maintenance, surf lifesaving education programs and tree management works.
The IPART decision followed extensive consultation with the Port Macquarie-Hastings community in 2010-2011 to gauge which Council services the community rate as a priority and what level of service is expected, and the development and endorsement of Council's Towards 2030 Community Strategic Plan documents including a Resourcing Strategy 2011-2021; Delivery Program 2011-2015 and Operational Plan 2011-2012.
IPART has advised that Council must undertake further engagement with the community if rate increases are being sought.
Council is now considering a new application to IPART in order to secure long term rate funding from next financial year. The success of any such application is linked to being able to demonstrate that the community understand the rating impacts and support the Operational Plan and works program delivered by the rate revenue.
The community will be consulted on the Special Rate Variation application in two parts:
Special Rate Variation - Part 1
In order to continue to dedicate funds to the service priorities and expectations of the community, Council is considering applying to IPART to have the current 7.3% increase above the base rate permanently applied.
If approved, Council can maintain the injection of $1.95 million into the roads program and $500,000 for parks and recreation maintenance into the 2012/13 budget. For ratepayers, this would mean that average residential rates would remain consistent with the last two years, with the only increase being the annual rate pegged amount which is estimated at 3%, or around $33 extra a year.
If the current 7.3% increase above the base rate is not approved, $2.5 million will need to be cut from Council's current operating budget.
Special Rate Variation - Part 2
Council is also proposing a five-year plan in its Special Rate Variation application in order to
address the backlog of road infrastructure that needs replacing, and construct new infrastructure in order to meet future population needs.
This part of the IPART application proposes a combination of loan borrowing and increasing rates on top of permanently applying the 7.3% increase currently in place.
The five-year-plan will be presented to the community as three options and the priority infrastructure works that would be addressed.
On top of maintaining the 7.3% increase above the base rate (Part 1), three additional options for the community to consider as a part of a five-year plan (Part 2) are:
- Option 1 - levy an additional 4.43% rate rise which equates to an average ratepayer increase of $50 a year for a $1.68 million budget impact.
- Option 2 - levy an additional 6.64% rate rise which equates to an average ratepayer increase $75 a year for a $2.52 million budget impact.
- Option 3 - levy an additional 8.86% rate rise which equates to an average ratepayer increase $100 a year for a $3.37 million budget impact.
General Manager Tony Hayward said community feedback during this consultation process is critical for Council to secure the necessary funds required to address road infrastructure maintenance and improvement.
"In order to validate the community's requirements in relation to service levels and the delivery of major projects in 2012-13 it is intended to recommence an intensive community engagement process," Mr Hayward explained.
"This will enable the implications of proposed changes to rates for the next financial year, and impacts on levels of service to be properly canvassed and validated with the community.
"We ask that everyone in the community have a voice during this consultation process whether you agree with the rate rise proposal or not. It is important that as a community we provide IPART with a comprehensive overview of opinion on what our critical service priorities are and how we as a Council and a community expect to fund them."
How to participate
A variety of communication and engagement tools will be used to engage the community and the Community Reference Group will continue to play a key role throughout this process.
Residents are encouraged from this week, to complete an online survey at www.pmhclistening.com.au/futureservices before 23rd December 2011. The survey includes a list of Fact Sheets. A Future Services brochure will also be mailed to every Port Macquarie-Hastings ratepayer by the end of the month.
Council will have a consultation team out and about at local shopping centres and community events throughout November and December. Residents participating in the survey will go into the draw to win an iPad2.