August 2018 | Sharon Webb
HOME OWNERS in Meander Valley on average will pay an extra $34.00 in rates this financial year, with commercial properties paying around $170.00 more.
Meander Valley councillors disputed for a month over a 2018-2019 rates rise before boosting them by almost 4.5 per cent.
Mayor Craig Perkins said the rise couldn’t be avoided, considering factors such as a loss of $278,000 in decreased Taswater dividends and increased inflation costs for core work such as road and bridge repair.
“After hearing concerns around the council table about increasing by five per cent, we found some savings to bring it down,” he said.
“I’m comfortable we’ve had a good look at the finances to make sure we’re providing a level of service at the lowest possible cost.”
At the June council meeting on 2018-19 budget estimates most councillors seemed a bit shell-shocked at the council staff recommendation to increase rates by five per cent. Since 2015 rates have risen by no more than three per cent, sometimes lower.
They deferred the rates decision to the July meeting and held a workshop to consider how to reduce the increase to around 3.5 per cent.
That goal was never achieved, but the following budget items were axed so ratepayers have only a 4.46 per cent increase:
• Westbury town common management plan: $15,000
• Westbury community facilities review: $20,000
• Deloraine pop-up community space (Flashing Chook block): $15,000
• International Women’s Day event: $10,000
• Deloraine recreation facilities feasibility study:$10,000
• Deloraine Community Complex scoreboards and shot clocks: $6000
In the July meeting, Cllr Andrew Connor put a motion, seconded by Cllr John Temple, that these cuts not be enacted. Instead, the $160,000 Myrtle Bridge north of Liffey upgrade listed in capital works should not be done.
“Things are really tight and we can cut $10,000-$20,000 here and there, but it’s just fiddling around the edges,” Cllr Connor said. “It’s a lot cut out for not much benefit.
“There’s nothing to say Myrtle Bridge is urgent; we do 10 bridges a year, all in rural areas and we’re doing them too fast. We have to tone down our investment in bridges.
“We’re doing little bridges in the middle of nowhere – it’s not where the majority of our ratepayers are.”
Cllr Connor’s suggestion was not supported and in the end councillors compromised on a 4.46 per cent increase for the sake of finding a way forward.
Cllr Rodney Synfield has recommended a future “root and branch review” of all council activities to identify efficiencies – in waste management, for example.
“Council’s rates, based ultimately on the Assessed Annual Value (rental value) of properties in the municipality, and currently set at less than 6 cents in the dollar of that AAV, is one of the lowest in the state,” he said.
“Compared to, for example, Launceston Council’s … which is in excess of 7 cents in the dollar and an even higher figure in respect of West Tamar municipality. This means Meander Valley rates in most cases are hundreds of dollars a year less than they would be in neighbouring municipalities for an equivalently valued property.
“This, however, results in less capacity for Meander Valley Council to absorb losses in income, such as from Taswater. This loss is not just for one year, amounting to well in Old school site reborn excess of 1.5 million dollars by the end of 2024/25.”