Rate hike plans

A proposal to increase rates in the 2019-2020 financial year is being discussed at the council meeting on Wednesday, October 10.

The proposal for a special rate variation (SRV) must go to the Independent pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for approval and part of the process would include community consultation.

Staff have prepared multiple scenarios for two SRVs following recent workshops with councillors but are recommending councillors give them the go ahead to continue modelling a special rate variation application based on raising $1.9 million to fund the shire’s swimming pools and $500,000 for an additional tourism marketing program.

The need for additional money for tourism has been an ongoing issue and has provoked calls for all those benefiting from tourism to pay. In particular people running Airbnb properties and individual holiday units or houses have been identified as being candidates for a new SRV aimed at providing additional funds for tourism marketing.

A number of options are being modelled by staff; in relation to the aquatic facility strategy raising either $1.2m or $1.9m a year across all categories, or from farmland and residential rating categories.

For the tourism reserve, staff are looking at raising either $175,000 or $500,000 a year across all rating categories, or from the business rating category, or from the business sub category of the residential and farmland rating categories where a tourism related business is operating as identified by research from the tourism industry.

It is this later category that has provoked most interest from councillors in previous discussions.

Council said that the current long term financial plan (LTFP) has additional revenues from SRVs included from the 2019-2020 financial year at $1.4m per annum. This modelling has not been specifically allocated to expenditure projects at this stage.

In recommending the larger amount, council staff said it would raise $2.4m per annum in total, and compared to the LTFP would place council’s ongoing finances in a much stronger position. Staff also said all funds would be part of council’s general fund, “thus providing maximum flexibility within the constraints of an SRV” and would give a defined revenue source for two significant areas.