Goulburn Mulwaree Council has revised its proposed special rate variation (SRV), according to a statement issued on Thursday (16 November).
Instead of a sudden hike in rates of up to 50 per cent, the council will phase in the increases over three years for the benefit of community welfare and to meet its legislative obligations.
“This adjustment comes in response to community feedback, particularly concerning the increased cost of living and financial pressures faced by residents,” the council statement said.
At the next meeting on Tuesday (21 November), the council will consider an amended proposed SRV as follows:
- 22.5 per cent in 2024-25 (including the rate peg)
- 16 per cent in 2025-26 (including the rate peg)
- 6.4 per cent in 2026-27 (rate peg is not applicable).
This represents a total cumulative increase of 51.2 per cent over three years, which will be permanently retained within the rate base.
As the council’s original proposal was for a total increase of 51.2 per cent over two years, the maximum increase for any period cannot exceed 51.2 per cent. As such, no rate peg will apply in the third year of the proposed SRV.
The previous proposed SRV triggered a strong community backlash.
Accountant and ratepayer activist Nina Dillon led two protest meetings opposing the proposed increase.
Ms Dillon claimed she and others had uncovered accounting errors in the figures the council had used to develop its long-term financial plan, which consequently also formed the basis for the special rate variation.
Council chief executive Aaron Johansson and director of corporate services Brendan Hollands declined to comment on her latest claim, saying they had addressed the issues previously.
Mr Johansson said if the council did apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for a special rate variation, the tribunal would analyse the projections provided to ensure accuracy.
Mayor Peter Walker said in light of the community’s feedback, the council has expanded its hardship policy.
“This enhancement is targeted to provide additional support to those in financial distress, ensuring equitable and fair implementation of the SRV,” Cr Walker said.
“The change includes a new SRV provision that enables ratepayers who experience distress to enter into an arrangement for up to three years to repay outstanding rates with no interest applied to the debt, provided repayments are made as agreed.”
Cr Walker said that to further support the community, the council has also revised its pensioner concession policy.
“The first year of the proposed SRV will see an increase in the pensioner rebate by $75 per annum, escalating to $100 per annum in the second and subsequent years,” he said.
“This initiative is part of our ongoing effort to support the most vulnerable members of our community.”
All councils would be trying to address cost-shifting from the state and federal governments onto local government, the Mayor added.
“Councillors are dedicated to fulfilling their legislative duties to ensure the Council’s financial sustainability, and these decisions are not made lightly,” Cr Walker said.
“This responsibility is balanced with a deep commitment to the wellbeing of our community, ensuring that Goulburn Mulwaree remains a vibrant and sustainable growing regional city.”