Ratepay­ers slugged

Waste levy adds to bud­geted in­crease

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - FRONT PAGE - DAMIAN BESTER

THE Der­went Val­ley Coun­cil’s rates in­crease was closer to 8.5 per cent than the an­nounced 5.85 per cent, coun­cil­lor and may­oral can­di­date Julie Trif­fett told last week’s bud­get meet­ing.

Cr Trif­fett said the gen­eral rate would in­crease by 5.85 per cent but the ad­di­tion of an $85 waste man­age­ment charge would take the to­tal to about 8.5 per cent.

“But that’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween rates and levies,” Cr Trif­fett said. “The rates are our op­er­a­tional bud­get and the waste levy is put away for when the tip needs to be re­ha­bil­i­tated and we need to build a trans­fer sta­tion.”

Der­went Val­ley Mayor Martyn Evans told the Gazette the rate rise was due to the cost of flood da­m­age re­pairs, the loss of div­i­dends from TasWater and pay in­creases for staff.

Sup­port­ing the pro­posed bud­get, Cr Trif­fett said this year’s bud­get process was more thought-pro­vok­ing and eas­ier for her to come to terms with than in the past.

The coun­cil’s two other may­oral can­di­dates voted against the bud­get, which will col­lect more than $7.5 mil­lion from ratepay­ers in the com­ing year.

Deputy mayor Ben Shaw said he sup­ported the bud­get, de­scrib­ing it as one of the most trans­par­ent re­ports he had seen, but would not be vot­ing for it.

He said it was a re­spon­si­ble bud­get but the coun­cil had failed to com­mu­ni­cate its true fi- nan­cial po­si­tion to the pub­lic.

“Our com­mu­ni­ca­tion is just poor. We’ve got is­sues that date back for many years,” Cr Shaw said.

“I’ve been ask­ing for quite some time if we could ac­tu­ally bring them for­ward, talk to the com­mu­nity about it and then bring them along for the ride,” he said.

Cr Shaw said th­ese his­tor­i­cal is­sues in­cluded the coun­cil’s debt level, the fu­ture of the Pep­per­mint Hill tip site, fi­nan­cial re­serves that were not cash-backed, poor in­fra­struc­ture main­te­nance, poor strate­gic plan­ning, and fail­ures in com­mu­ni­cat­ing the need for rate rises.

Cr Paul Belcher, who has been cam­paign­ing for mayor since late last year, said he would be vot­ing against the bud­get be­cause it did not in­clude sev­eral items that had pre­vi­ously been ap­proved.

He said the coun­cil had ap­proved an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cost of of­fer­ing hard-waste col­lec­tion days — as done in neigh­bour­ing coun­cils — but this was nowhere to be seen in the bud­get doc­u­ments.

“Ob­vi­ously there is a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, [but] it’s not just with the pub­lic, it’s also around the ta­ble with elected mem­bers,” Cr Belcher said.

The bud­get passed six votes to two, af­ter about 20 min­utes of dis­cus­sion.

Cr Frank Pearce said the bud­get process had faced some chal­lenges.

He said a 2.5 per cent in­crease in salaries and wages formed a sub­stan­tial part of the coun­cil’s ex­pense, along with loan re­pay­ments.

“On top of that we have the im­pact of the re­cent storm events,” Cr Pearce said.

“While most of the im­me­di­ate cap­i­tal costs will be picked up by fed­eral as­sis­tance and in­sur­ance there is still a sig­nif­i­cant on­go­ing cost im­pact on the coun­cil which has to be funded from rates, fees and charges.”

Cr James Gra­ham said the bud­get process started out 5 per cent be­hind the eight ball be­cause of its fixed com­mit­ments.

“It seems to me that even a 7 per cent rate in­crease would be more re­al­is­tic. I’d sooner fall for­ward than fall back and that’s speak­ing as a ratepayer,” he said.

Cr Barry Lathey sup­ported the bud­get, not­ing that the forced trans­fer of the coun­cil’s wa­ter and sew­er­age as­sets to the state wa­ter cor­po­ra­tion some years ago had robbed the coun­cil of half its in­come.

“Dur­ing that time since it was taken away the coun­cil has pro­ceeded on with I dare­say an in­creased staff and this has also im­pacted on the rise in the bud­get,” he said.

The coun­cil meets again at 6pm to­mor­row for its monthly meet­ing at the New Nor­folk Courthouse in Cir­cle St.

Glenorchy coun­cil re­cently dealt prop­erty own­ers in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity a steep 12.5 per cent rise in rates. The in­creases caused Ho­bart Al­der­man Marti Zucco to call for a rates cap to be im­ple­mented across all Tas­ma­nian mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties be­cause of stag­nant in­comes.

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