A move to look into imposing a $14 annual ‘environmental’ levy on Tweed ratepayers has been slammed as ‘a great big roads tax’ and an attempt to discredit environmentally conscious ratepayers.
Pro-development Cr Warren Polglase’s notice of motion for Council to investigate the introduction of a one per cent special levy above the 3.4 per cent annual capped rate increase drew support from all councillors except mayor Barry Longland.
The $14.17 levy would be introduced from 2014–15 if approved, with Cr Polglase, saying it would raise half a million dollars annually to spend on maintenance around the shire and would help ‘leverage’ further state funding.
Cr Polglase admitted the move ‘may be controversial’, but said it would relieve funding pressure on the shire’s budget, especially spending on roads, which was one of the shire’s ‘biggest issues’.
‘If we can generate more funds to fix them, surely a lot of ratepayers would appreciate that,’ he told Council last Thursday.
But community watchdog group Tweed Monitor said the move was ‘both totally unwarranted and an attempt to discredit environmentally conscious ratepayers’.
Monitor spokesman Jerry Cornford said the motion ‘insulted the intelligence of ratepayers’.
‘If Cr Polglase is genuinely concerned about a potential shortfall in the roads budget, why doesn’t he just come out and call the proposed levy what it is, A Great Big Roads Tax,’ Mr Cornford said.
‘There’s absolutely no need to target by association the majority of environmentally minded ratepayers.’
Mr Cornford described the levy plan as ‘farcical’ as it would raise only $503,000 per year.
‘This is peanuts compared with the $5 million dollars council will raise in rates from the Kings Forest development and a similar amount from Cobaki Lakes,’ he said.
‘The Tweed has already endured seven years of rates in excess of the IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) rates limit, yet with another huge input to come from the two largest new residential developments on the east coast of Australia, Cr Polglase is still crying poor.
‘Council is already maintaining its Crown lands and coastal reserves from the current rates budget, and to suggest that it needs to raise a levy just in front of an estimated $10 million rates windfall is a total nonsense.’
Cr Polglase said such a levy was already used by other NSW councils and the Tweed council should look at finding alternative funding arrangements as the current rate pegging level would not change, irrespective of which party was in government.
He said council would have to present a ‘strong case’ to IPART and a program detailing what exactly the levy funds would be spent on.
Cr Katie Milne said there were other ways to fund environmental initiatives and a levy may not be the best process.
She said funding on the environment should be incorporated ‘adequately’ in Council’s normal budget as it was in Council’s charter to do so, and questioned the use of such a levy.
A staff report on the proposal is due to be considered at council’s November meeting.