'Cuts need to be made': Ratepayer rages over $6.1m deficit
"RATEPAYER advocate" Neville King has one message for Lismore City Council: "Special rate variations are not the answer".
In June 1999 Mr King addressed the council over concerns that ratepayers couldn't meet the ever-increasing rates.
And, upon hearing of council's recent $6.1 million budget shortfall, he was quick to reiterate his message again at the extraordinary council meeting last month.
"I couldn't believe I was the only ratepayer to address the council on Lismore council's financial crisis," Mr King said.
"The councillors just sat on their hands again and didn't ask me one question, it was very disappointing."
In his recent speech, Mr King said: "For too long Lismore council has failed the residents, ratepayers, businesses and farmers.
"The executive summary... tells a sorry story - the recommendations are a little too late.
"I feel for GM Shelley Oldham who took over (after previous GMs) allowed council to continue borrowing millions to support significant unfavourable compliance and operational matters.
"Council needs to review the long term financial plan forecasts for 2019-2029 and make some in-house decisions.
"Cuts need to be made.
"In the long term... potential rate variation increase is not the answer.
"Council needs to consider their management plan and present workable and fundable solution that ratepayers can afford.
"The CBD, businesses, the ratepayers cannot afford this council."
In 2015 Mr King opened the Ratepayers and Community Embassy in Lismore and fought to stop the Biodiversity Management Strategy (BMS) coming in, which "would have cost ratepayers an extra $500,000".
"I will re-open the embassy if I have to," he said.
"There are so many businesses closing in the CBD.
"Any number of businesses could give me space to run it, and they'd all be behind me.
"We need council sorted out - this is wrong.
"I want action and if it doesn't happen, I will make it happen."
Mr King said council's remediation plan "was not good enough".
"Increasing rates isn't the answer, we are the currently the dearest rates in the region," he said.
"If you fall into a $6.1m hole, it's not the responsibility of ratepayers, it's the responsibility of council."
Council's full transformation plan to try to balance the budget and ensure the future sustainability of the organisation will come up at its meeting on March 12.