Rate rises to av­er­age 3 per cent

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Taelor Pelusey

Uncer­tainty sur­round­ing the State Govern­ment’s fi­nances has un­der­scored the Shire of Au­gus­taMar­garet River’s an­nual bud­get, which was adopted this week along with rates in­creases av­er­ag­ing 3 per cent.

Projects to­talling about $3.4 mil­lion and the $677,000 slated for the 2017-18 fi­nan­cial year through the Fi­nan­cial As­sis­tance Grants pro­gram were brought for­ward, al­low­ing the Shire to en­ter this year with a sur­plus of about $4 mil­lion.

At this week’s meet­ing, Shire pres­i­dent Ian Earl said 3 per cent was “about where we need to be” to al­low the Shire to tackle curve­balls thrown by the Govern­ment.

“The State Govern­ment — they giveth, they taketh away,” he said.

“It does pay to have good re­serves, which we do have, and a good solid bud­get to al­low for some sur­prises down the track.”

Cap­i­tal and op­er­at­ing ex­pen­di­ture is at $60 mil­lion — up by $12 mil­lion from the pre­vi­ous year — while cash-backed re­serves to­talling $23 mil­lion have been fore­cast to meet chal­lenges in­clud­ing the main street re­de­vel­op­ment and con­ver­sion of Witch­liffe’s Davis Road land­fill site into a re­gional waste trans­fer sta­tion.

Em­ployee costs mark the Shire’s big­gest op­er­at­ing ex­pense at 41 per cent and are up 1.4 per cent on the pre­vi­ous year. How­ever, there could be a slight re­prieve with an amend­ment made by Cr Kim Hastie, who left room for the role of an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer — es­ti­mated to cost ratepay­ers about $80,000 — to be re­con­sid­ered.

“I’m not say­ing with­draw it . . . I’m say­ing let’s sit down and re­view the ne­ces­sity of that po­si­tion,” he said.

En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams re­ceived al­most $500,000 and ma­jor and lo­cal events will be boosted by $135,000 and $50,500 re­spec­tively.

While the bud­get was pre­sented as bal­anced, Cr Peter Lane ques­tioned whether it should be con­sid­ered as such.

“I re­gard it as a deficit bud­get be­cause . . . any bud­get that re­quires bor­row­ing to make it bal­ance is a deficit bud­get,” he said.

Cr Lane said this demon­strated why rates in­creases were “ab­so­lutely jus­ti­fi­able and nec­es­sary”.

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