The State Government has been criticised for failing to better prepare for an increase in the emergency services levy.
The State Government has been criticised for failing to better prepare for an increase in the emergency services levy. Contributed

'We don't grow money trees': Council slams levy increase

THE State Government has provoked the ire of Ballina Shire Council over a sudden levy increase.

An improved compensation scheme for firefighters diagnosed with work-related cancers, introduced by the State Government last year, will see ratepayers across the state slogged extra for an increased emergency service levy.

In the next 2019/20 financial year, NSW councils will be expected to collect an extra $160 million for this levy.

For the Ballina Shire, that levy will be $322,000 for that financial year, 21 per cent up from the current year.

A report that went before Thursday's council meeting said Local Government NSW supported the compensation changes, but said there was no consultation and little notice to local councils.

Councillors unanimously voted for mayor David Wright to write to the NSW Premier and Opposition Leader, the NSW Minister for Customer Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Local Government and their opposition as well as state MP Tamara Smith.

That correspondence will see Cr Wright call upon the government to fund the first year of the extra cost rather tham lumping it on local councils.

It will also explain how the "sudden increase” will impact services and the community, highlight that councils were not informed of the increase until this month, and the "poor planning and implementation of the increase”.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader said the council was "at saturation point for rate rises”.

"We've got a great nursery but they don't grow money trees up there,” Cr Cadwallader said.

Cr Ben Smith said the situation was "poor planning on the State Government's part”.

"I support the motion and I hope they listen,” he said.

Cr Keith Williams asked whether there was any "legal obligation on council” to pay the levy.

"Can we turn around to the Statae Government and say no, we're not collecting your levy?” he asked.

"Is there a legislative instrument that says we have to pay?”

Cr Phil Meehan suggested refusing to pay the levy "could lead to a council dismissal and an administrator being put in place”.

Deputy Mayor Nathan Willis suggested the State Government consider the levy paid through stamp duty taxes on properties the council had allowed to be subdivided.