18 November 2022

Bega Valley's council starts process to potentially raise rates by up to 90 per cent

| Albert McKnight
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Bega Valley

Bega Valley Shire Council has proposed a 90 per cent increase to its base rates. Photo: BVSC.

The process of potentially increasing the base rates in the Bega Valley Shire by up to 90 per cent has begun, with councillors unanimously agreeing to tell a pricing authority they may want to apply for a rate rise.

Following the decision at its meeting on Wednesday (16 November), Bega Valley Shire Council will tell the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal it may ask for a special rate variation (SRV) from 2023 so it can meet the rising costs of delivering services and maintaining assets.

There are four options with the proposed SRV: a 90 per cent increase to rates, a 45 per cent increase introduced in 2024 then an extra 37.2 per cent the year after, a 43 per cent increase, or, no SRV.

Council said the 90 per cent option would allow it to meet its current needs, but the option of no SRV would mean it would have to significantly reduce its current levels of service.

“This option continues the unsustainable financial trajectory and will mean we are not able to manage core assets such as roads and bridges,” it said.

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But the increase won’t happen just yet, as council will first ask the community for its views.

“An endorsement of the plan does not mean we have decided to increase rates, only that we will advise IPART we are going to discuss this with our community,” council’s CEO Anthony McMahon said before Wednesday’s meeting.

During the meeting, Councillor Liz Seckold said to her, the recommendation about the rate rise shouted “loud and clear” that local government had been underfunded for years and years.

Greens Cr Cathy Griff said she had already heard from people who would struggle to pay, saying some weren’t paying for a coffee as “already they are under such pressure”.

However, she also noted council was also in a situation where it was “going to be running out of money” if it kept on operating the way it had been, adding it had been supported recently through grant funding.

Cr Tony Allen called the decision councillors had to make an “unprecedented moment” for the shire and said, “I think by and large, no one is going to be happy.”

“We live in paradise and there comes a cost to live in paradise, unfortunately,” he said.

He raised the issue of the six pools in the shire, saying several years ago councillors had promised they would find the funding to replace the pools when it was needed and he asked for five per cent from the rate rise be set aside in reserve for their replacement.

Cr Mitchell Nadin argued this process was about the community having a choice, whether that was to pay more and get more or pay less and get less, and residents needed to have conversations about what they wanted in their shire.

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He said the 90 per cent option would mean that everything the shire currently had would be renewed when the time came. As an example, he questioned if an asset like the Candelo Pool was something that the community wanted to renew and include in the long-term financial planning.

“At this point in time there is no decision made … that is up to you, the community, and we will be listening intently until it comes back to council,” Cr Nadin said.

The community engagement period will run until 16 January 2023. Council’s Long Term Financial Plan 2023-32 will be on public exhibition over this time. For more information, visit council’s website.

Council will meet again on 1 February 2023 and determine the rates increase it will seek.

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