Editorial March 18th 2022

Welcome to this week’s editorial, Recent weeks, recent events will have you looking at your budget. We know that fuel costs have climbed dramatically and that the cost of food, services and materials are in a continued upward climb. Around us the real estate prices have risen at an eye-watering rate as have rental prices, if you are able to secure a vacancy at all. There is little doubt that home budgets are being reviewed, and as a consequence we are collectively pulling in our belts and trying to anticipate where the next increases will be as we watch our incomes remain static. In Eurobodalla we have a high proportion of older folk on fixed incomes and we are well aware that we have one of the highest rates of under-employment in the State for those who are working. Basically man in our community are just making ends meet. For those who are doing it hard the consequences are that they drop what they can. Cheaper cuts of food, bulking up on carbohydrates, less fruit and vegies, generic brands and the removal of non-essentials. So long as you can keep a roof over your head. But many now don’t even have that. We all accept that things cost more. There is supply and demand and we accept that fruit and vegetable supplies have been hammered by the recent floods. We accept that timber is hard to source after the bushfires and we accept that fuel prices are driving up the cost of materials. Those building a house know that any quote they request is only good for seven days as material supplies are as rare as hen’s teeth and their prices fluctuate from one week to the next. While we are all considering how we will be able to afford the increases in insurance costs and the escalating increases we are seeing at the checkout those who have properties are now dreading the looming rate notices. As a community we acknowledge that Council also has a budget that they have to juggle. Recently they invited the community to play an online game of juggling the budget where you could rearrange priorities by taking from Libraries and giving to roads or taking from mowing and giving it to painting toilet blocks. The tool was pretty rudimentary but you got the idea soon enough that with a set budget there were the costs you had to cover such as wages and any subsequent cut meant a cut in services provided. The Council relies on our rates to cover the costs of overheads, services, maintenance and renewals. Usually it goes up by around 2.5% per annum but this year the Independent Pricing Tribunal, for one reason or another, decided to cap that increase at just 0.7%. Terrific!! I hear you call. Or is it? The problem with this miniscule increase is that it reduces the money we have in our bucket and, as a consequence, there WILL be cuts. What cuts? Well Council can’t get rid of staff all that easily. Staff are people, they have families, they live here, they are us. The cuts will be elsewhere. Instead of resealing a road every 12 years they will extend that out to 15 years, instead of grading four times per year they will cut it back to two, maybe they might limit mowing in your neighbourhood or define a new level of service where they mow when it gets to a certain height rather than every month. Potholes might not get fixed as fast and the renewal of buildings might be slowed. In time more an more will show wear and tear and evidence of being at, or near, the endo of asset life rather than just economic life. By the time the average ratepayer notices the reductions it will be too late. If you look around out road network now you will agree that we need more money rather than less. But that means we might have to accept a Special Rate Variation that will see us paying the 2.5% we usually pay. So, what to do? Let it all run down or make a cut in our own household budget to pay for the services and facilities we expect? My immediate expectation is that Council needs to show us that it too can trim some fat. Until next lei


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