This council’s rates have risen by 63% over nine years
AN EVANS Head ratepayer is concerned Richmond Valley Council has become a "serial Special Rate Variation applicant", with it's rates income set to rise by 63 per cent over a nine year period.
Peter Ashley said the council had made numerous SRV applications to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) since 2004, with the last two variations approved in 2014 and 2019.
IPART approved the council's SRV application in May, 2019 for a 23.9 per cent cumulative increase over four years, and in 2014, a SRV was approved allowing the council to raise rates by 39.1 per cent over five years.
By 2022, Richmond Valley ratepayers will be paying 63 per cent more than they did in 2013, and that isn't factoring in the cumulative effect.
In 2014, the Chairman of IPART at the time, Peter Boxall, said the SRV would deliver the council $7.3 million above the rate peg over five years.
He said IPART determined Richmond Valley Council's application met the criteria for approval of the special variation by demonstrating a clear need for the additional revenue, that it had appropriately engaged the community about the proposed rate increases, and that it took steps to improve productivity and contain costs.
"In making this assessment, we also considered the council's long term financial plan and whether the impact of the variation on affected ratepayers is reasonable," Mr Boxall.
An SRV approved last year would increase the council's revenue by $3.9 million over four years, which the council said would fund the maintenance of existing services, infrastructure and community facilities, allow for the renewal of infrastructure, and enhance the council's financial sustainability.
In May last year, current IPART Chairman Dr Paul Paterson said while the percentage increase was significant, the council was able to clearly demonstrate its financial need.
In 2014 and 2019, both of the IPART Chairmen noted Richmond Valley Council's average residential rates were lower than the average rates charged by similar councils.
But Mr Ashley said he felt the "total increase was quite substantial" and felt the council did not adequately quantify rate payers ability to pay the increases.
He called on IPART to establish standardised surveys across all councils to provide a better picture of ratepayers thoughts on rate increases.
Mr Ashley said the comparison in SRV applications between neighbouring councils' rates was a "dishonest way to prove a point" that rate increases were warranted as every council was different.
Richmond Valley Council has been contacted for comment.