Re: MID COAST COUNCIL SET TO IMPOSE SPECIAL RATE VARIATION INCREASE ON 1 AUGUST 2017
I understand that MidCoast Council is proposing an Extraordinary Council Meeting on 1 May 2017 to start the process to impose a Special Rate Variation (SRV) on MidCoast Council ratepayers by placing the proposal on public exhibition and seeking Government approval.
According to Council’s website an application will be made based on the information distributed by Council in October/November 2016. At that stage the rate increases proposed were the equivalent of a 6% increase for Manning Region, 5% for Great Lakes and 11% for Gloucester.
If rates were pegged in accordance with the rates determined by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) the rate increases for 2017/18 would have been 2.5% for Manning and Great Lakes. Gloucester was already subject to a 11% SRV.
The proposal by MidCoast Council to apply for a SRV is now allowed by the enactment by the NSW Government on 29 March 2017 of the Local Government Amendment (Rates-Merged Council Areas) Bill 2017. This Bill specifically allows MidCoast Council to apply for a SRV, while other merged councils are prohibited from applying.
Council maintains that due to the late change in legislation and Office of Local Government Guidelines there is very limited time to undertake the SRV process (including exhibition for public comment) to enable Rate Notices to be issued by 1 August 2017 as required by the Local Government Act 1993.
It is apparent that the Administrator and Interim General Manager of MidCoast Council are rushing this proposal through by simply recycling the 2016 application and putting it up for public comment without any further community engagement or consultation.
At this stage Council has not prepared a draft 2017-18 Operational Plan with cost and revenue budgets for all operation, capital expenditure, fees & charges etc) for consideration by the ratepayers and general community. Especially relevant to rate payers are the forecast savings from the merger and the grant funds available from the NSW Government
Without this key Operational Plan it is impossible to see the real reasons for an SRV and for the public to be convinced that all cost savings have been implemented and key projects delivered.
In my opinion it is essential that there is an opportunity for ratepayers to engage with council officers and have an opportunity to consult and collaborate in developing options for all assets – not just roads and bridges.
Given that Council elections are to be held in September 2017 why would it not be better to defer any decisions on an SRV until a new Mayor and Councillors are in place?
This would allow sufficient time for Council to embark on a well developed Community Engagement and Communication Strategy to fully explore all revenue and expenditure options and to ensure the public has a real say under with democratically elected representatives.
In meantime can I recommend that ratepayers closely watch the MidCoast Council website Meetings Section to review the business papers related to the SRV and to take the time to write to the Administrator with your views and comments prior to the Extrordinary Council Meeting on 1 May 2017.
Without your comments, the Administrator and Council management will be unaware of your position on this proposed rate increase.
Hopefully it is not too late to change their attitudes to this impost.