Ballina mayor explains why rates have to go up
SEVERAL readers have written letters to The Northern Star's sister paper, the Ballina Shire Advocate, criticising Ballina Shire Council for increasing rates.
The mayor, Cr David Wright, has provided the following response:
"IN response to recent letters, the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has provided State Government approval for council to increase our total rate income by 5.9 per cent for 2019/20.
"This approval was provided in May 2018 following a community consultation process and excludes other charges such as water, wastewater and waste collection, which are increasing by approximately 2.7 per cent.
"The 5.9 per cent is the final year of an IPART approved three-year program of increases to ensure that Ballina Shire is a financially sustainable council.
"The IPART approval states that council "has demonstrated the financial need for the special variation” and that our average residential rate will move to around the average for similar councils in NSW (not just neighbouring councils).
"IPART is an independent State Government body that has no political alliances.
"Anyone interested in the details should refer to the IPART website (www.ipart.nsw.gov.au) and review their determination report as it provides details on the need for the increase.
"A copy of that approval is also on council's website.
"In respect to our recent financial results, for 2017/18 council generated a $47.5m gain inclusive of capital grants and contributions and a $5.8m gain before those contributions are included.
"This distinction is important, as capital contributions includes infrastructure in subdivisions handed over to council, which we must then maintain. It is not cash held by council.
"Without the capital grants and contributions included our net operating result for the last four years has been a $5.8 gain (2018), $2.8m gain (2017), $2.0m loss (2016) and a $16.4m loss (2015).
"It is important that we steadily improve our operating result as our latest financial statements identify that we are responsible for managing community assets with a carrying value of $1.6 billion.
"Our long-term focus has been to invest any surplus funds in new infrastructure or the renewal of existing infrastructure.
"The 2017/18 financial statements, being the latest statements available, highlight that there was $24.3m expended on asset renewals and $41.8m added in new assets.
"We are continuing to invest in infrastructure with major projects well advanced or about to commence including the Ballina Indoor Sports Centre, Airport Terminal expansion, completion of the Coastal Shared Path and Walkway, Skennars Head Sports Field expansion, completion of the Hutley Drive Sports Fields, the new District Park for Wollongbar and the new Airport Boulevard Road.
"We also want to ensure our rates and charges remain affordable and the percentage outstanding as at 30 June 2018 was 3.14 per cent of the total levied, which is well below the regional and rural council benchmark of less than 10 per cent.
"All of this information is available on our website under the Integrated Planning and Reporting quick link.”