A local councillor has urged his colleagues to consider declining a special rate variation that was approved by IPART.
A local councillor has urged his colleagues to consider declining a special rate variation that was approved by IPART. Cade Mooney

'No justification for cash grab' rate rises: Councillor

A BALLINA Shire councillor will this week ask his colleagues to reject an additional rate rise.

Cr Jeff Johnson has lodged a notice of motion urging the council to not proceed with the proposed 5.9 per cent rate increase for next financial year.

"This proposed increase is on the back of continual rate rises over the last 10-15 years which has seen rates more than double during this time,” Cr Johnson said.

"Ballina Council has been the beneficiary of over $20 million in government grants over the last few years which is money that would otherwise have been allocated from residential and business rates.

"This is a great result and as a consequence there is no justification for council to once again slug ratepayers with an additional 5.9 per cent rate hike.”

Cr Johnson said to increase the general rates the Independent Pricing Tribunal's recommendation, the council had to "apply for special consideration to prove financial hardship” and consult the community to show support for the increases.

"Neither of these prerequisites have been complied with,” he said.

"It's hard to see the continual rate rises as anything other than a cash grab.

"Ballina Council has claimed this hardship provision almost continuously for the last 15 years resulting in residential and business rates going up well in excess of inflation.

"For some property owners the rates have gone up more than 200 per cent during this time.

"With record growth in new housing, largely paid for by developers, there is also millions dollars of extra rating income coming in.

"I've continually argued that the continued rate increases aren't necessary and am once again asking the council to not proceed with the proposed increase for the 2019/2020 financial year.”

IPART has approved the special rate variation of 5.9 per cent, which the council has estimated would generate some $740,000 in extra revenue compared to the rate peg limit (2.7 per cent) for next financial year.

According to staff comments attached to Cr Johnson's motion, that revenue had already been allocated to "increased asset renewal expenditure on roads, stormwater, playgrounds and community facilities”.

"If council does not wish to proceed with the special rate variation approximately $3m worth of projects will need to be deleted from the four year works program,” staff said in the report.

"The notice of motion has not identified the projects to be deleted.”

Councillors will consider the matter at this Thursday's ordinary meeting.