3 February 2023

Bega's council to ask for 43 per cent rate increase, instead of nearly double

| Albert McKnight
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Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Hines Constructions

Bega Valley Shire Council will ask to increase its rates by 43 per cent. Photo: Hines Constructions.

Bega Valley Shire Council won’t apply to increase its rates by 90 per cent as was originally flagged as a possibility, but has instead settled on asking for 43 per cent over two years.

Council previously decided to tell the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal it would ask for a special rate variation (SRV) from 2023 so it could meet the rising costs of delivering services and maintaining assets.

The four options at the time were: 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.

Earlier this month, council voted to proceed with an application to IPART for a permanent SRV, but one that would be 43 per cent spread over two years in order to recognise the financial challenges being faced by ratepayers.

The increase would be 24 per cent in the first year and 21 per cent in the second year.

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“We are in the unenviable position of seeking an increase in rates, however the cost to deliver services and maintain community assets continues to increase above the income council obtains each year,” Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said.

“It places pressure on council to continue to deliver the same services with less money.”

He said the community’s extensive feedback, successful grant funding and an independent report commissioned to assess the community’s capacity to pay all contributed to council’s decision.

Mayor Fitzpatrick said, “realistically”, council did need a 90 per cent increase and the reduced rates increase will impact its ability to deliver the same levels of service.

“We simply won’t be able to do everything that is required over the next 10 years, such as renewing some of the key assets the community relies on and values including pools, buildings, roads and bridges, which will now be dependent on receiving full or partial grant funding,” he said.

When councillors discussed the issue late last year, Cr Tony Allen said the decision they had to make was 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.

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Council will lodge an application with IPART this month, which will assess other relevant information, including the communication received from ratepayers during the public exhibition and consultation period.

IPART will provide a determination in May. If approved, the rate increase will start on 1 July 2023.

The community can still provide feedback directly to IPART, once council’s application form and supporting documents are published on IPART’s website.

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