27 February 2023

Stewart steers Snowy Monaro Regional Council away from 53 per cent rate hike

| Gail Eastaway
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Bob Stewart

Former Bombala Shire Council mayor Bob Stewart has had a win. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

The former mayor of Bombala Shire Council, Bob Stewart, has recorded a significant win in his role as Snowy Monaro Regional councillor, leading a push against a massive rate hike.

Cr Stewart led opposition to the proposed 53 per cent special rate variation (SRV), which council had voted on two weeks prior and which had been referred to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

It was a close vote, with six of the 11 councillors voting for the increase. The proposal had stirred up much controversy among the community, with many claiming they would not be able to afford the increase.

At that time, Cr Stewart said the SRV was “not the way to go” and that council could do better for ratepayers.

At the 16 February meeting, Cr Stewart successfully lodged a rescission motion to reverse the decision made to proceed with the increase.

IPART will be informed that Snowy Monaro Regional Council is now seeking what is known as ‘Option 2’ – a 55.25 per cent rate increase spread over five years starting from 2023/24.

This rescinds the previous motion to apply for a 53 per cent one-year SRV.

READ ALSO Bega, Snowy and Queanbeyan-Palerang residents brace for council rate hikes

In moving the rescission motion, Cr Stewart said many sections of the community would be left struggling financially following such a severe rise.

“You’ve got to think about the affordability for people, have a bit of empathy,” he said. “This is no way to treat a community. We need to work with them.

“The sensible way to move forward is to go back to Option 2, and then review it. It gives council time to get its house in order, see how we can deliver outcomes better. And it won’t have that impact on the community.”

Cr Louise Frolich pointed out that the community had been very clear in its stance against the 53 per cent rise during consultation, with Cr Luke Williamson stating that such a large SRV would damage the working relationship between council and the community.

Chris Hanna said council needed a long-term plan, which Option 2 allowed for.

At the last meeting Cr Tricia Hopkins, who had voted for the original motion, changed her stance and supported the rescission motion.

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Crs Higgins, Summers, Davis, Beer and Mitchell voted against the rescission motion, maintaining that the 53 per cent SRV was the wisest way forward as per recommendations by staff and financial reports.

Council said Option 2 enabled an additional staged investment of $51.1 million in asset renewal to progressively stabilise the current infrastructure backlog and to undertake additional renewal and maintenance of roads and other community assets and that over time, current service levels would be maintained while also progressively improving the operating result and financial sustainability.

Council said this option strikes the balance between addressing council’s structural deficit, maintenance and renewal backlog, and structural inefficiencies – with the equally important concerns of community affordability. Improvements will take longer under this more conservative SRV, and there may still be a need for short-term service and facility reductions.

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Tony Redondo10:48 pm 24 Mar 23

The people that approve such rate hikes are completely out of touch from reality. Why are we sub-contracting road maintenance, is it easier to give someone a check to go do the work than it is to run a crew and machinery? Did I hear somewhere we are paying $800 000 for public toilets in Bredbo? Seems to me like councilors taking the easy way out at our expense. I think we should have an audit! On another topic, can us rate payers have an explanation for the yellow fringe around the Australian flag in our council chamber?

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