Council rate increase is on the horizon

John Turner

John Turner

Concerns about a growing backlog of maintenance and repair work on the shire’s roads and bridges was the impetus behind MidCoast Council’s decision to apply to the State government for a special rate variation (SRV)

An estimated $150 million would be needed to address the work, while council had identified an additional $5 million shortfall in funding for sealed roads.

At Wednesday’s November 23 ordinary meeting in Forster administrator John Turner gave council the nod to notify the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of its intention to apply for a SRV.

Council believe a five per cent rate rise over four years (inclusive of the rate peg) would help clear the ever increasing bottleneck of essential repair work.

In his report to council corporate and business systems director, Steve Embry said IPART had advised the use of  an estimated rate peg of 2.5pc for financial planning.

In effect the proposed SRV is for 2.5pc above the rate peg for four years, Mr Embry said.

“The application to IPART to achieve the four by five per cent SRV is complicated by the fact that the former Greater Taree City Council and the former Great Lakes Council have environmental levies which expire with this four year period,” he said.

He said this meant the environmental levy from both former councils have to be re-applied for as part of the four by five per cent application.

“Given this,l it is proposed that the environmental levies be standardised at six per cent and also applied across the entire MCC area including the Gloucester region.”

But, council’s proposal isn’t all about hiking up the rates.

The proposal also includes a freeze in waste charges for three years, providing ratepayers with a $120 saving.

“Our initial priority as a  merged council was to review our asset position – in particular sealed roads and bridges,” interim general manager, Glenn Handford said.

Mr Handford said the shortfall came as no surprise off the back of the three former councils’ asset positions.

“Unless we’re able to address this gap, the condition of our roads will worsen and the community will become increasingly dissatisfied.”

Through efficiencies and savings identified since the merger, council has earmarked $18 million for roads and bridges over the next four years.

“But this alone is simply not enough.

“If we don’t take action now to increase our rates’ income our community will see further deterioration of our road and bridge infrastructure and an ongoing increase in the asset backlog.”