Jens Krause, Byron Bay.
Byron Shire Council wants shiny back roads, shiny new cars and shiny new rate bills for residents.
At Thursday’s council meeting a lot is at stake. Council decides about a Special Rate Variation. With the wrong decision the fate for many coastal residents could be sealed in the negative.
The staff will recommend a special increase of 10 per cent every year for four years and then permanently retained, which is to fix a $6 million a year funding gap. My own calculations, after considerable drilling down into the assumptions, sees the funding gap closer to $2 million per year.
A one off 10 per cent special rate increase could fill that hole. Or an increase in paid parking by $1 an hour, that’s another million dollars per year in revenue. Or extending paid parking, another half a million dollars. Or a tourist levy, another million dollars. Or a festival infrastructure levy, another million dollars. Or an Airbnb tax, another half a million dollars. Or borrowing some infrastructure money, almost given away by the state government exactly for that purpose.
That’s all doable, but needs a will.
But four successive 10 per cent rate increases? That is greedy. You always can go back to your community and ask for more. Ballina Shire has just done that.
Against the general manager’s advice, councillors have the freedom to go lower than the current options, as confirmed to me by the regulator, IPART.
Rate increases are never popular as we are told, but that statement becomes a farce if other options are available but not followed up.