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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Bega Council Now Considering 90% Rates Increase

Bermagui Community Forum is a local group established to enable residents to develop consensus views on important community issues and present them to Council and other relevant bodies. The forum advise:


Councillors will decide whether to endorse the staff recommendation to begin the process of applying for a Special Rate Variation at their meeting on Wednesday 16 November.


For detailed information on the staff recommendation see the Council Meeting Agenda item 10.1


Council staff have provided a range of rate increases in general rates, including a recommended 90% increase (preferred option A) permanently applied from 1 July 2023. An application for this Special Rate Variation has to be made to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) by 24 November.


Any rate increase would not apply to water, sewer and waste rates, so for most residents it will mean a 40% increase in overall rates if the highest option was adopted.


Council staff estimates this increase will raise $23.1 million in general rates in FY24. The proposed increase is much higher than Council staff’s previous suggested 35% general rate increase from earlier this year.


A rate increase is aimed at making up for underspending for many years on infrastructure maintenance for roads, bridges and swimming pools, plus recent significant increases in construction costs.


Council staff are saying they have reached the point where the community has to choose between much higher rates or substantially reduced community services.


Council are proposing to try to explain this issue at town markets and are scheduled to be at Bermagui Growers and Makers market at 3.30pm, Thursday 1 December. The Bermagui Community Forum considers we need full scale community meetings attended by Councillors and key Council staff in all the major towns. A community meeting in Bermagui could just as easily be held on Thursday 1 December (say 5pm) in the Country Club or the Community Hall.


The nearest such full-scale meeting currently proposed is in Bega on Monday, 28 November.


There is the possibility of a significant community backlash if this issue is not communicated well by Council.


No Council decision on how big a rate increase will be made until after the community consultation and a further review of the staff options presented.


The Bermagui Community Forum considers that if a 90% increase is required, then it should be phased in over a number of years to allow residents to financially plan for this additional cost.


Council should also consider offering financing arrangements in coordination with a bank, so that pensioners are not required to sell up to meet the increased cost. For pensioners this rate increase would add more pressure to their household budget just as other costs are going up.


There will be flow on effects for Council’s Affordable Housing policy, as landlords will likely want to increase their tenant rents to cover the cost of the rate increase,


Council are planning to release their revised Long Term Financial Plan on 16 November to help justify this proposed rate increase. It will be interesting to examine the key assumptions in this Plan around population increase and cost increases.


This proposal will be open for community engagement and comments from 16 November 2022 to 16 January 2023.


We encourage community members to engage with the Council on this issue that will shape the long-term future of the shire. You can contact Council via email or by calling 02 6499 2222.


Comments


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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