Waste levy adds to budgeted increase
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.