Hindmarsh wins rate-cap approval
Hindmarsh Shire Council has been successful in its application for a ratecap variation to the Essential Services Commission.
The council had applied for an additional two percent increase over and above the State Government’s two-percent rate cap for 2017-18.
The commission responded to the request, saying it was satisfied the application showed a long-term funding need.
In its official response the commission said: “Hindmarsh needs the higher cap to help manage assets and deliver services in the long-term interests of ratepayers and the community.
“In 2017-18, Hindmarsh will use the extra revenue to upgrade road assets.
“We are satisfied that the application shows a need to invest in road assets.
“This is supported by the council’s long-term financial planning and community engagement.”
Hindmarsh Shire Council decided in May to apply to the Essential Services Commission for a higher rate cap of four percent for 2017-18.
Mayor Debra Nelson said the council arranged eight community consultation meetings across the shire to discuss the issue at length and receive feedback.
“The decision to apply for a rate-cap variation was not made lightly,” she said.
“The council is very mindful of our community’s capacity to pay and recognises that most people don’t enjoy paying rates, which are essentially a tax, but the reality is that our revenue has been greatly reduced by reductions in state and federal funding.”
The council’s long-term financial plan had originally been prepared allowing for a five percent increase in rates for 2017-18 and the following two years to maintain service levels and renewal of aging infrastructure.
Cr Nelson said the Victorian Auditor General recognised that rural shire councils would be unable to remain sustainable into the medium and distant future without finding extra money.
“While the council has examined its business operations and implemented a range of initiatives to cut costs and continues to lobby for extra funding, we will inevitably be at a disadvantage because of our geographical challenges,” she said.
“Hindmarsh Shire covers 7500 square kilometres, has more than 3000 kilometres of roads and six bridges to maintain. The loss of a million dollars a year from a Country Roads and Bridges program has had a detrimental effect on maintaining our road networks, which are so important to our agriculture businesses and wider community.
“The additional rate revenue will be used to maintain the road network.”
Hindmarsh Shire Council approved its draft budget at its last council meeting and has released it for public comment.
The council invites written submissions from the public, which it will consider before adopting the budget on August 23.