Steep hikes across the board on Council charges

A report will be presented to Councillors at next Tuesday's ordinary Meeting seeking adoption of Council’s revised Delivery Program 2017-22 and Operational Plan 2021-22, incorporating the Budget, Fees and Charges, Revenue Policy and the making of the general rate and water, sewer, waste, stormwater and liquid trade waste charges. There is little doubt that Councillors will approve: A General-Purpose rate income increase of 2% in accordance with the rate peg amount approved by IPART Adoption of the maximum rate of a 6% interest to be charged on overdue rates and charges for 2021-22 Waste collection charges to be increased by 2%. The Environment Levy to increase by 2% The water consumption charge to increase by 1.3% and the water availability charge to increase by 2.9%. The sewer availability charge to increase by 2% Liquid trade waste charges will increase by 2.6% Once again the Water and Sewer funds will be paying a dividend to transfer funds to the General Fund. Once again Councillor Pat McGinlay will reveal that Council knowingly overcharges the community for water and sewer so that it can, via a loophole, pay a dividend into the General Fund that is otherwise constrained by the CPI increase set down by IPART. Council’s water supply and sewerage businesses are permitted to pay an annual dividend from its water supply or sewerage business surplus. Eurobodalla Council, like most other council's around NSW bemoan that they can't raise enough revenue to keep ahead of maintenance and renewal of assets because IPART controls allowable increase in rates in the General Fund that we all pay based on our unimproved land value. The loophole of overcharging on water and sewer allows Council to get around this restriction. Councillor McGinlay forced the Council's Director of Finance to admit that Council has been overcharging on water and sewer for over a decade to give the General Fund a "dividend". Rather than charging users a cost neutral rate the Council intentionally overcharges. So much so that they are able to anticipate the "dividend" and factor it into their projected annual income. Each dividend must be calculated and approved in accordance with the DPIW guidelines and must not exceed: i. 50% of this surplus in any one year, or ii. The number of water supply or sewerage assessments at 30 June 2020 multiplied by $30 (less the payment for tax equivalent charges, not exceeding $3 per assessment). Council say "The Water and Sewer Funds are in a sound financial position and have capacity to transfer the full dividend amounts. They had operating surpluses (before capital revenue) of $1.67 million (Water) and $1.26 million (Sewer) in 2019-20. Payment of these dividends will assist Council to continue to meet its Fit for the Future ratios in accordance with Council’s adopted Fit for the Future Strategy." The Operating surpluses represent how much Council has overcharged ratepayers in order to give the General Fund a dividend. In the ten years or more that this practice has been going on the Council have not shown any readiness or proof of pulling in their belt by way of reducing their own overheads and running costs. Of interest is the fact that the General Manager has placed the Agenda Item: Adoption of the revised 2017-22 Delivery Program and 2021-22 Operational Plan before the Agenda Item: Dividends from Water and Sewer Funds As the Dividends from Water and Sewer Funds play a major role in the revenue required to drive the Delivery Program and the Operational Plan it is more than presumptive of the General Manager to assume that all of her councillors will vote to support the blatant overcharging of water and sewer fees that is allowed to continue. Anyone considering running for Council needs to be aware of the above and also needs to become an expert in understanding Council’s adopted Fit for the Future Strategy and how it works for protecting the organisation of Council at the expense of the ratepayer.

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