Tar­geted rates mooted in King’s bud­get

Waikato Times - - NEWS - LIBBY WIL­SON

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.

PHOTO: CHRISTEL YARD­LEY/STUFF

Imelda Skin­ner with Pen­car­row Stud mare Lafleur and her filly.

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