Rates, charges and fees to be discussed as council keeps mum on sums

Council's fees and charges under discussion.
Council's fees and charges under discussion.

On Wednesday, May 7 Bega Valley Shire Council will discuss its draft operational plan, budget, fees and charges. If approved at the meeting, council will put the figures and plans on public exhibition.

Of interest to most ratepayers will be the impact on rates. Last year IPART, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approved a three-year plan for Bega Valley Shire Council comprising a new 2 per cent one-off permanent increase above the 3.4 per cent rate peg in 2013-14. This was for the renewal of collector roads.

This year (2014-15) will see the retention of the sports levy as a 2.5 per cent one-off permanent increase above the approved rate peg of 2.3 per cent.

In 2015-16 council has approval for a new 2 per cent one-off permanent increase above rate pegging for infrastructure renewal for public domain areas and buildings.

Council’s business paper states that this year IPART has approved a 5.5 per cent increase resulting in an additional yield of $1.09 million including the special variation of $507,000 for recreational assets.

For the year 2014-15 the net effect to ratepayers will be about 2.3 per cent, the rate cap figure as the remaining 2.5 per cent is the renewal of an already existing special variation that has been known as the sports levy.

However how the council arrives at the figure of 5.5 per cent is unclear as the rate cap plus the retention of the sports levy comes to 4.8 per cent.

The News Weekly asked council for clarification but council refused to give any details. Council’s spokesman said that council wanted to see the outcome of the meeting before discussing the figures and how the money might be used.

One of the critical aspects of the budget, however, has been the consideration of asset renewals and upgrades, particularly in respect of roads and bridges.

Last year council was facing an asset backlog of some $70 million. It was a matter that had been highlighted as a needing attention in the Review Today report conducted by Prof Percy Allen and presented to council in 2011. In 2012-13 council was spending about $6 million on maintaining its assets but according to finance manager, Lucas Scarpin, council needed to spend double that for the next 20 years just to maintain the assets at the existing level.

Council said it plans to spend $26.8 million in 2014-15 on its assets including roads and bridges if the figures are approved for public exhibition at today’s meeting.

Another matter that will impact council’s budget is the estimated award increases for council employees of 3 per cent costing $635,000 although council states that it has made savings of approximately $1 million in its operational expenditure.