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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Bega Council adopts planning roadmap

Councillors have adopted a suite of planning documents including the 2022-23 Operational Plan and Budget, Community Strategic Plan 2042 and Long Term Financial Plan at today’s Council meeting.

The Operational Plan outlines what Council will do over the next 12 months to meet the needs of the community within the available funding sources and staffing levels.

Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the adopted Operational Plan seeks to balance Council’s business as usual work and priority projects with the need to continue to improve our financial position.

“The Operational Plan and Budget we adopted today includes a range of business as usual services—things like ensuring our road network is safe and accessible, providing clean water and managing our sewer services, waste management, maintaining and operating our libraries, community halls, swimming pools, sporting grounds and playgrounds, and supporting tourism and development across the shire,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

“It also outlines a range of additional priorities for the next 12 months including implementing the Affordable Housing Strategy, commencing construction of the Bega Water Treatment Plant, finalising the capping of Cell 3 at the Central Waste Facility, completion of the Merimbula Transport Study, the launch of the redeveloped gallery, delivery of the Youth Speak Resilience Project, and delivery of a range of bridge and recreation facility upgrades.

“These are much-needed projects, but we are starting the financial year with a $6.8 million deficit, which is not sustainable.

“Juggling community expectations with available funding is always a challenge, particularly for a shire so heavily impacted by natural disasters.

“Additionally, grant-funded projects and upgrades often come with unfunded maintenance and replacement costs, adding extra pressure on an already stretched budget.

“Add to that significantly reduced federal funding over many years, low rate pegs and sky-rocketing costs, and you have the perfect financial storm.

“This is why we had to request a slight increase in the 2022-23 rate peg to bring it up to the 2.5% we had modelled based on previous rate peg amounts and CPI.

“We were not alone in this—86 NSW councils applied for, and were granted, a small increase by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) who acknowledged the rate peg was lower than many councils expected.

“This is also why we’ve adopted a Long Term Financial Plan that outlines the need for a future increase in rates to continue to meet rising costs that are escalating well beyond CPI.

“We have been working through a financial improvement program for many years now and while we have made significant improvements, the reality is that escalating costs – such as materials and contracts – are fast outstripping any reductions we can make.

“To continue to deliver the vast range of services we provide and to maintain and renew our valued community assets, we need to increase our revenue.”

If Council decides to apply for a future special rate variation, there are multiple steps required. This includes applying to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) and seeking community feedback on the options being considered.

“Over the next six months Councillors and senior staff will be reviewing our services to assess whether there are any other changes we can make to reduce our expenditure, or whether there are opportunities to do business in a smarter and more cost-effective way,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

“There will also be opportunities for the community to provide feedback on the proposed SRV and have a discussion about which services are most important for the community.

“Importantly, if a special rate variation is approved, it won’t come into effect until 1 July 2023 and will only apply to general rates – not to water, sewer or waste charges.”

Special rate variation (SRV) indicative timeline:

  • June – September 2022: Council continues to review SRV options and efficiency measures

  • October 2022 – February 2023: Community consultation

  • November 2022 – If proceeding, notify IPART of intention to submit an SRV application

  • February 2023 – If proceeding, SRV application is submitted to IPART

  • May 2023 – IPART advises whether it supports the SRV application

  • June 2023 – If approved, Council decides whether to introduce the SRV starting 1 July 2023

You will find documents on Council’s website:

Resourcing Strategy, including Long Term Financial Plan:

Fees and Charges will be published on Council's website from 1 July.


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