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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

The rate of rising rates in Richmond Valley Council

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Who doesn’t love paying their council rates?

The adequacy of services provided in return for council rates is often a contentious subject, and now the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has approved Richmond Valley Council’s application to increase its general income by a cumulative 23.9% over the next four years.

What this means for residents is a rates rise of 5.5% from July 1, 2019, followed by further 5.5% per year increases in each of the next three years.

The additional revenue of $3.9 million over the next four years will fund the maintenance of existing services, infrastructure and community facilities, allow for the renewal of infrastructure, and enhance the council’s financial sustainability.

Special variations are designed to give councils the flexibility to generate additional income above the rate peg to meet their specific needs, with an independent process to assess the increase.

IPART Chair Dr Paul Paterson said that although the percentage increase approved is significant, especially over the full four years, council was able to clearly demonstrate its financial need.

‘Richmond Valley Council currently has average residential rates at $960, which is lower than the average rates charged by similar councils,’ sad Dr Paterson.

Twelve submissions, including two petitions with 360 and 289 signatures each, were received opposing the increase based on concerns about the Council’s financial management and affordability for ratepayers.

‘Despite this, Richmond Valley was able to meet the criteria for approval of the special variation by demonstrating a clear need for the additional revenue,’ sad Dr Paterson.

‘Although we noted some shortcomings in the Council’s consultation with its community and Integrated Planning and Reporting documents, we assessed these overall to be sufficient. We also found that the impact on ratepayers would be reasonable, and the Council is taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs.’

The application was assessed by IPART against the NSW Government’s published criteria, taking into account the council’s planning and reporting documents, its financial need for the additional revenue, its community consultation on the proposed changes, and the capacity of ratepayers to pay the requested increase.

‘If adopted by the Council, the variation would result in average residential rates increasing by $54 in 2019-20 and by $238 over four years. Average business rates would rise by $170 in the first year, while farmland rates will go up by an average of $94,’ said Paterson said.

The requested special variation of 23.9% cumulative increase over four years will be retained permanently in the rate base.

Richmond Valley Council is one of 13 councils across NSW (of a total of 128) to make a special variation application to increase rates for 2019-20. IPART approved eight applications in full, three applications were approved in part, and two were rejected.

The full reports on all of the councils’ applications are available at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au.

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