Targeted rates mooted in King’s budget
Hamiltonians might have to dig deeper for targeted rates if they want items like pools and reduced congestion.
Funding community assets and transport projects with the ring-fenced money – instead of using debt – is part of Mayor Andrew King’s proposed city budget.
King says running the city and dealing with growth will use all the coins in the Hamilton City Council piggy bank and there’s no cash for ‘‘toys’’.
But some of his colleagues say the targeted rates are too much for ratepayers and are asking why there’s money for growth but not community facilities.
‘‘Right now, we’ve got to the stage in the cycle where we’ve got to open up this new growth cell and we just haven’t got the money right now for toys,’’ King said, as councillors discussed the ‘‘budget building blocks’’ presentation at a September briefing.
Once that’s done, there will be more flexibility, but at the moment there’s no spare room in the budget, he said. ‘‘I do understand what you’re saying. ‘‘The budget has no room at all for amenity … there’s nothing for roads.
‘‘There’s nothing for amenities … and we need upgrading of our roads and we need upgrading of our amenities.
‘‘So the way to do that is to bring in a targeted rate but ensure that it can’t be used to leverage against further.’’
King’s plan divides council spending into four key categories and states how each one should be paid for.
General rates and fees and charges would cover the cost of running city council operations, while growth would be funded through development contributions and debt.
But current ratepayers would have to foot the bill for community infrastructure and transport projects through a targeted rate – though there might be topups from external funders and transport subsidies.
It’s a big burden on ratepayers, councillor Angela O’Leary said.
And Hamilton would end up taking a hit on community assets or missing out completely.
‘‘We’re just not going to be able to hit the ratepayers of the day to get a zero impact on our debt.’’
The briefing was full of warnings about tight city finances, including from chief executive Richard Briggs.
King’s plan is about trying not to ‘‘mortgage the city’’ but also ring-fencing some money for assets, Briggs said.
‘‘It’s not appropriate to pay the power bill from borrowing – because that’s what we’ve been doing.’’
Cr Paula Southgate thought the plan would slow down doing new things for the city and would create an alarming future for community facilities.
She and O’Leary both questioned why council had money for growth if not for community assets, but Briggs said the council had little choice.
‘‘If we don’t fund growth, we start going backwards in other areas.’’
Hamilton will need a second growth cell the size of Peacocke to be open by the end of the next 10-year plan, councillors heard.
Growth provides some kind of payback, Cr Garry Mallett said, whereas amenities such as pools don’t.
The targeted rates proposed would be citywide at this stage but, after questions from Cr Dave Macpherson, staff said they would look into some more specific options.
Staff are also considering four growth scenarios – from full steam ahead with the Housing Infrastructure Fund to a ‘‘tuned down approach’’, Briggs said.
The mayor’s proposed budget is due to be presented to councillors on October 19.
Imelda Skinner with Pencarrow Stud mare Lafleur and her filly.