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Byron GM hits back at rate-rise claims

Byron Shire Council general manager Ken Gainger. Photo supplied

Byron Shire Council general manager Ken Gainger has responded to critics of the council’s rate-rise plan. Photo supplied

Chris Dobney

Byron Shire general manager Ken Gainger has contacted The Echo in an effort to address complaints about the shire’s controversial plan to raise rates above the state cap.

At its December meeting, council resolved to ‘lodge a notice of intent to apply for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART)’, although it is yet to determine how much of an increase it will apply for.

That decision will not be taken until February.

Meanwhile both Echonetdaily and The Byron Echo have been inundated with letters opposing the plan.

Mr Gainger has denied staff are leading councillors ‘by the nose’ by to adopt the plan and that they have been ‘lazy’ in not considering ways of making visitors pay their fare share, such as an ‘Airbnb’ tax or extending paid parking to other towns.

He has denied Byron’s rates are ‘among the highest in the state’ and said that in fact they are ‘among the lowest in the region’.

Mr Gainger also said that changes in the valuer-general’s land valuations, which have led to rate increases in some parts of the shire have had the opposite effect in others.

He has also reiterated that unless council increases its rates base significantly it will likely fail the state government’s ‘fit for the future’ test and be slated for amalgamation.

Mr Gainger’s points appear in full below.

Why are ratepayers being asked to foot the bill and not visitors?

While council has now informed the IPART that it intends applying for a Special Rate Variation it has also asked staff to explore how additional funds can be raised from tourist levies, local businesses that profit from tourists, and holiday let establishments. Staff will report back to council in February before the council determines the level of rate increase that it applies for.

Why wasn’t a ‘no rate rise’ option considered?

It was clear to the council that such an option was not feasible given the extent of council’s infrastructure backlog and the requirement to meet the seven performance benchmarks set by the state government/IPART.

Council has been lazy in not exploring alternatives to a rate rise.

Over the past four years council has slashed the number of senior staff and reduced staff salaries, significantly improved operating efficiencies, raised new revenue through paid parking and property sales, saved $300,000 per year in smarter procurement, refinanced loans and paid down debt, slashed council’s legal costs, and established a new infrastructure fund.

We already pay some of the highest rates in the state.

Council’s general rates are among the lowest in the region and other councils of similar size in NSW.

As a result of the valuer-general’s re-valuations, rates have increased substantially across the shire

Despite new valuations council’s overall rate yield has not increased beyond the rate peg level. While some property rates have gone up beyond the rate peg because of revaluations this is offset by other properties’ rates going down because of a drop in valuation.

New staff and road machinery has already been procured.

No it hasn’t.

Councillors were not aware of the SRV financial detail.

Staff and councillors have been working through potential SRV scenarios for the past two years, with significant financial detail discussed during a series of strategic planning workshops. To suggest that councillors blindly follow staff recommendations is disrespectful to our hard-working councillors.

Council should spread pay parking to other towns

Council recently extended pay parking to Wategos. Council has also undertaken parking studies for Bangalow, Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads and Belongil. These studies will be reported to council over the next 12 months and consultation will be undertaken with those communities on parking management options.

For more information on the proposed rates increase go to Byron Shire Council’s website www.byron.nsw.gov.au


5 responses to “Byron GM hits back at rate-rise claims”

  1. Paul Jones says:

    So Mr Gainger claims Council is not lazy and wasteful,
    Council staff could not be bothered to properly investigate the proven better cheaper rail corridor Byron bypass,
    Council is mounting a $1million court case against its own community to defend its lazy bypass decisions,
    Council has fully documented the Butler Street bypass before it even has approval – hardly prudent,
    Council provide no cost benefit analysis for this major infrastructure spend which has tripled in potential cost.
    Council will adopt “Biobanking” to secure the Butler Street bypass with an huge unquantified and perpetual cost to the community for offsetting the destruction of critical protected habitat.
    Council staff managed to achieve all this by controlling the agenda, leading the Councillors on with limited [and questionable] information.
    Byron Council has become the masters of spin and propaganda – question everything.

    • Peter says:

      Your rail corridor option is NOT better, you just think it is! I for one, do not and based on the community response to it the community doesn’t either! Council is not taking it to court. Your Self interested group that wants to force their option on the community is taking council to court. You are being disingenuous and your self interest over the Community interest is showing! Cars in the Rail Corridor does NOT fit the accepted Master Plan, and brings vehicles closer into the town center which is not good for the community ONLY good for Butler sr residents.

      • Paul Jones says:

        Peter who? Your OPINION re rail corridor bypass is not better, YOUR opinion has no basis in fact. Who are you anyway or who are you working for? The rail corridor route was examined in detail in the 2001 Byron Bypass EIS and that is where it came out superior, this is not my opinion it is a detailed fact. And how do you as one speak for the “community”, the master plan had no say in Council’s decision to run a bypass down Butler Street, were you even there for the process? We are a community Peter Who, we are out and proud, we are the Butler Street Community Network, we have over 1000 signatures in a petition to Council over the bypass, there were 640 submissions against the Butler Street bypass DA and only 9 in favour. Want some more facts instead of baseless, faceless propaganda Peter Who? Council were warned by their own Councillor Duncan Dey over 2 years ago that if they did not do their job properly it would end in court, Council has only itself to blame. The master plan has NO say re. cars on the rail corridor which by the way is only 50 metres from Butler Street – hardly crowding town out if it was sensibly utilised to allow access to the rear of the CBD (Mercato Carpark) thereby helping to promote a MAJOR masterplan intention to reduce vehicle activity on Jonson Street and surrounds. I think we shall dub you Peter Drivel.

  2. jens krause says:

    Q1 The horse has bolted by then. The rate rise will not be reversed or reduced. Ever.

    Q2 The backlog is a statewide problem, not unique to Byron Shire. No, not all benchmarks have to be met. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Q3 Money from Paid parking has not been spent, where it was suposed to be spent, to reduce the infrastructure backlog, a committment to IPART. Instead it was spent on new infrastructure and improvements. Councils problem is to stay with it’s commitment to spend where it is said it would.

    Q4 Out of 41 Councils in NSW in the same group 4 as Byron, Byron Shire residents paid the 8 highest rate per capita according to 2008/09 figures

    Q5 Now the Hinterland is crying out for money for fixing their back roads. The money will be raised in Byron Bay, Suffolk Park and Brunswick Heads, Everyone else can breath easily. Rates in those locations have allready risen up to 25% in 2016/17 alone. Others have come down,

    Q6 Wrong again. There are large items in the budget for last year and this year. Spending 27 Million Dollars this year alone on capital works automatically requires a larger fleet, mashinery etc.

    Q7 Councillors work hard, but all improtant information is released only days before meetings, or comes from committees and are then signed off. Don’t forget, 5 councillors are new. It is doubtful ,they had enough time to digest ineligable financial constructions such as presented to the last council meeting to support the rate rise.

    Q8 Brunswichk Heads is a No Brainer, just check the traffic there. No 12 months needed. I was in favour of paid parking in Byron, as I naively thought it would take pressure off our rates. But now I know that demands for road funding is insatigable. It can be created out of thin air.

  3. Len Heggarty says:

    If you are renting and you have your rent to pay or you are offered a chocolate bar what do you spend your money on? Not the chocolate bar if you are responsible to a lot of ratepayers.
    You pay your rent.
    Why has Byron Council got a backlog on infrastructure?
    You never compare yourself to the rest of the state if they have a backlog in infrastructure.
    You only care about your own infrastructure.
    It is called ‘responsibility’.

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