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Open Letter: Say NO to rate rise

The Beagle Editors, Your readers might be interested in our open letter to Council sent today. Dear Mayor Innes and Councillors

Say NO to rate rise

Eurobodalla Coast Alliance wishes to register the strongest possible objection to Council’s proposed rate increase for 2020-21. Put simply, such a rate rise at this time is totally unacceptable.

Eurobodalla residents have been severely affected by a combination of a general decline in business conditions which commenced well before the recent bushfires.

The fires themselves have had a devastating effect on business and private property owners, with many still struggling to deal with the aftermath. The covid-19 pandemic with its consequent impact on tourism and general business activities has further compounded these problems.

Virtually every resident has suffered income losses arising from lockdowns, cessation of tourism, unemployment or under employment, and bushfire damage all of which have been beyond their control.

The NSW and Federal Governments have provided at least $1.65 million to Council following the bushfires, and voluntary agencies have no doubt contributed even more : but neither State taxpayers or Eurobodalla ratepayers have yet been told how this money was or will be spent and on what specific projects or services. This is disgraceful. Councillors have a duty to demand these details be made public as a matter of urgency. The NSW Auditor General may also be interested.

Councillors are invited to look at the empty shops in Batemans Bay, Moruya, Narooma and other areas and ask themselves how a rate rise will re-open these businesses. Spending $100,000 to provide Councillors and management with new smart phones and tablets won’t do it.

In these circumstances ECA believes it is unconscionable for Councillors to contemplate any increase in Council’s own revenues when the community which has been forced to make very real sacrifices is suffering greatly reduced incomes.

ECA also disputes the rating projections which Council management claims average 2.5 percent.

This overlooks the fact that the Valuer-General has only recently adjusted property values in the Eurobodalla. ECA has established that in some areas the increase in property valuations on which rates are based range between 13.5 and 30 percent. The actual rate increase on many, if not all properties, will be much more than 2.5 percent as claimed by the Council. The increase in valuations alone would provide Council with a windfall increase in income without any rate adjustment. The claim that the rise is only 2.5 percent is specious and designed to mislead.

Landlords will be particularly hard hit, with many tenants seeking rent reductions. So while rental income reduces landlords will not only have to continue to pay rates, but will face significant rate increases.

ECA notes that in the Shoalhaven Councillors voted to give every ratepayer a $300 reduction in their rates! Why doesn’t Eurobodalla do the same?

ECA believes instead of proposing a rate increase Council should look carefully at its own activities with a view to reducing expenditure, not increasing it. At the very minimum Council’s budget should not exceed that for the current year. Belt tightening should affect Council as well as ratepayers. As the Prime Minister and Premier have both pointed out, the way to economic recovery is not via tax increases.

Council should instead look to what green and red tape can be removed to facilitate greater business confidence and investment within the Shire. Such reduction will result in more economic activity which of itself will increase Council revenues and provide renewed employment opportunities without imposing further costs on struggling ratepayers.

Russell Schneider President Eurobodalla Coast Alliance Inc

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