4 October 2019

"Double dipping" on Bega Valley pools rejected by Council

| Ian Campbell
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Mark and Zoe Philipzen took over the management of this community-owned pool four years ago. Photo: Ian Campbell

Mark and Zoe Philipzen leading swim squad sessions at Bega Pool. Photo: Ian Campbell

Bega Valley Shire Council has rejected claims of “double dipping” on pools funding made by a former Mayor and General Manager at a recent public meeting.

Council is in the midst of testing the communities response to a ‘Special Rate Variation’ (SRV) to pay for the maintenance of the Shire’s six public swimming pools as well as fund new and upgraded facilities in the future.

Roughly speaking Council currently spends $1.382 million per year to operate pools at Cobargo, Bega, Bemboka, Candelo, Pambula and Eden. Pool revenue accounts for 40% of that.

To do everything, including build new replacement pools, Council says they need just over $2 million per year or an increase in total income of 11% per annum.

The SRV Council is proposing adds up to an extra $146.82 a year per household based on a land value of $204,000.

Six public meetings have been held to pitch the idea inconjuction with broader telephone surveys and an online questionnaire via Council’s website which last week had attracted over 400 responses.

Monday’s (September 30) meeting in Bega attracted a good crowd and has been described as lively by those who attended but also necessarily rigorous given what’s on the agenda – prized community assets and an increase in rates.

As reported by the Merimbula News Weekly, former Mayor Michael Britten and former General Manager David Jesson both attended and raised questions around an existing SRV designed in part to pay for pools.

“The SRV approved in council’s 2008/09 operational plan covered a number of items, including “recreation buildings and pools,” the MNW reports of the discusssion.

“In its first year of implementation it amassed $70,000, but by 2017/18 $90,024 was collected from ratepayers. It is an ongoing SRV which attracts compound interest.”

Details of the SRV from 208/09 covering pools and reported as part of the 2017/18 annual report of council. Photo" Merimbula News Weekly.

Details of the SRV from 2008/09 covering pools and reported as part of the 2017/18 annual report of council. Photo: Merimbula News Weekly.

No explaniton from Council was included in the report of the meeting.

In response to questions from Region Media, Council’s General Manager Leanne Barnes has labelled claims of “double dipping” as inaccurate.

“And we’re concerned it could mislead the community on the nature of the proposed new SRV on the six pools strategy, coming up for consideration by council next month,” she says.

“Every year Council budgets the income we receive to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the many and varied assets we own and manage, including the pools.

“How this budget pie is sliced every year will vary depending on the elected Council at the time. Every year additional costs outweigh the rates revenue raised through the rate peg increase and a fine balancing is undertaken.

“The proposed new Special Rates Variation would guarantee that the funds needed for the ongoing operation and upgrades to the pools are secure into the future and not dependent on the elected Council of the day to determine what slice of the budget pie is allocated to pools.

“We are not seeking to continue to budget for pools out of the general fund as well as apply the new SRV.

“The regulated nature of the SRV funding ensures that for perpetuity this money can only be spent on pools.

“A dedicated SRV will free up the funds we currently budget for pools for other critical infrastructure assets such as roads and bridges.”

Around a dozen people turned out to meet with Bega Valley Shire Council at Bemboka Hall. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Around a dozen people turned out to meet with Bega Valley Shire Council at Bemboka Hall last month. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Ms Barnes accepts the 2008/2009 SRV was in part directed towards the shire’s pools but “the raising of small amounts which cannot make a noticeable difference is what the Council is trying to avoid by being specific and ringfencing funds raised by the pools SRV.”

“The pools have indeed benefited over the years from this earlier SRV through, for example, smaller asset renewals like shade covers, but it is not nearly enough to fund the operations and upgrades for the Shire’s six pools into the future based on modern standards.”

To review the Bega Valley Swimming Pools Strategy Discussion Paper for yourself and provide feedback vistit Council’s website. Residents have until 20 October to provide comment.

Councilors will have the final say with regard to a Special Rate Variation at their November 20 meeting.

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Fraser Buchanan7:25 pm 10 Oct 19

Clearly obvious double dipping is the reality particularly with Ms Barnes admitting it in her statement “A dedicated SRV will free up the funds we currently budget for pools for other critical infrastructure assets such as roads and bridges.” So anyone having any doubts about it there it is…..If they need additional funds for roads & bridges they should say so, last week it was for operational maintenance and the week before it was going to be used to reduce the operating deficit…so obviously they don’t have a genuine plan for what they are planning to use the windfall for….but one thing is for sure everyone should read our submission which explains the whole deal including councils exorbitant continual blow out of expenses over the past 4 or more years…www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/BVSRRA-Submission-to-BVSC-re-Swimming-Pools-SRV—08.10.2019.pdf

edward stulpinas12:22 pm 10 Oct 19

I do not propose to pay another SRV rise due to pools – the monies you WASTE on unnecessary “items” – “Merimbula Airport” in millions and just how many regularly use it besides the “fat cats” – the donations and purchase to “art” items (and don’t get used) – your “feel good trips and “learning and consultations seminars” (and all for naught whenever that Mayor or Councillor loses that position just 2 or 3 years later” – the non-punitive investigations (what for if not to find persons responsible and chastised or penalized) – all the ON-GOING very very costly feasibility studies (totals in millions) – consultancy costs (again in millions) – and I can go on and on – EVEN your Mayor said “Yes , we need to do something about the governance spending” – LOOK AT ALL the shut “shops” in Merimbula and Cobargo and Bega (another latest coffee shop has just shut down in the Mall) – you all must get out of your “ivory” tower and see the real issues – why haven’t ALL you Councillors done something to curb wasteful spending and keeping the rates in check?


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA)11:14 am 10 Oct 19

More council propaganda Ian.
David Jesson suggestion that council was “double-dipping” did not relate to the 2008/2009 special rate variation (SRV) mentioned by former councillor, Michael Britten.
Jesson’s concerns, had you bothered to speak with him, were about the fact that ratepayers are already paying for the operating costs of the pools through their current rates but if council pursues its proposed new SRV, it will be collecting that same money a second time. Council has acknowledged that its intention is to use the exiting funds allocated from the General Fund for the pools to either pay-down its operating deficit or for “asset maintenance”, whatever that means.
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) maintains that the only additional funds that council needs to find for the shire’s six pools relate to their replacement costs; said by council to be $646K, which means that it is attempting to defraud the ratepayers by as much as $1.4M.
While you, council & the rest of the local media conveniently focus on Britten’s red herring, which amounts to around $90K annually, you have nothing to say about the monstrous $1.4M fraud.
The BVSRRA can only conclude that the local media is either incompetent or deliberately acting to conceal council’s dishonest behaviour … some might suggest that both are true.
Read the real facts in the BVSRRA’s submission to council here …www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/BVSRRA-Submission-to-BVSC-re-Swimming-Pools-SRV—08.10.2019.pdf

Ian Campbell12:53 pm 10 Oct 19

Thanks, John and Fraser, I stand by what’s been published, appreciate your interest in the issue. Ian

Decommission Bemboka and Cobargo pools and redirect the funds to Bega pool which is in dire need of an upgrade to a 50 metre facility. This may be the most practical and logical future for the community who deserves a great pool in Bega.

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