The conversation around any council’s rates rise is always going to be a fiery one and this week Cr Jeff Johnson from Ballina Shire Council says there is no justification for the latest ‘cash grab’ by Council and Cr Keith Williams has responded.
Cr Johnson says Ballina Council is proposing another rate rise of 5.9 per cent for the 2019/2020 financial year.
‘This is on the back of continual rate rises over the last 10 to 15 years which has seen rates more than double during this time.
‘Ballina Council has been the beneficiary of over $20 million in government grants over the last few years which is money that would otherwise have been allocated from residential and business rates’, he said.
‘This is a great result and as a consequence there is no justification for Council to once again slug ratepayers with an additional 5.9 per cent rate hike’, said Cr Johnson.
To increase the general rates beyond what the Independent Pricing Tribunal (IPT) recommends, which is usually the inflation rate, Council’s need to apply for special consideration to prove financial hardship.
Johnson says Ballina Council also has to conduct community consultation to show support for the increases. In my opinion neither of these prerequisites have been complied with.
‘It’s hard to see the continual rate rises as anything other than a cash grab,’ he said.
‘Ballina Council has claimed this hardship provision almost continuously for the last 15 years resulting in residential and business rates going up well in excess of inflation.
For some property owners the rates have gone up more than 200 per cent during this time.
With record growth in new housing, largely paid for by developers, there is also millions dollars of extra rating income coming in.
I’ve continually argued that the continued rate increases aren’t necessary and am once again asking the Council to not proceed with the proposed increase for the 2019/2020 financial year.
Cr Johnson says his Notice of Motion (NoM) didn’t get a seconder at the Ballina Council meeting last Thursday June 27.
Political point scoring
Cr Keith Williams says that Cr Johnson’s NoM didn’t receive a seconder as it was entirely without merit.
Cr Williams says the evidence that this was little more than cheap political point scoring in that he sent out an extensive media release, but did not provide any written argument in support of his motion to Councillors or the general public by way of the agenda papers.
Williams says the media release also contained a number of factually incorrect assertions that had he submitted with the NoM, would have been easily challenged.
‘All Councils in NSW have been required to meet new financial benchmarks imposed by the state government through the “Fit for the Future” reforms,’ said Cr Williams.
‘Every local council in the Northern Rivers has been forced to increase rates in the last few years in response.
‘When these increases are fully implemented, Ballina Council will have the lowest rates in the Northern Rivers.’
Williams says this is a good result for our community and an indication of how seriously both staff and Councillors have taken the job to run an efficient and effective organisation.
‘Cr Johnson also failed to take any responsibility to propose cuts to planned expenditure to compensate for the potential $3 million loss of income over the next four years,’ he said.
‘At the same meeting, Ballina Councillors adopted a budget that will see the largest rollout of solar on Council facilities in the Northern Rivers. By investing $700,000 we will take our total generation to over 1000kW and save the community more than $125,000 per year in electricity costs and reduce our carbon emissions.
‘The solar system will pay for itself in a little over five years. This is the kind of forward planning that good governance and responsibility to our community requires.
‘Unfortunately it appears to be beyond Cr Johnson.’
I do not mind paying rates in Ballina as it is well run , provides a good standard of amenitie and it strikes a good balance between consulttion and getting things done. The roads, and public areas are as well or better kept as the public facilities in Canberra where I sometimes live, and for me the all-important cycle paths are better than the vaunted cycle network of Canberra. David Wright is a good mayor with a good team who are always friendly and helpful.
Interesting how Cr Keith Williams accuses me of ‘political point scoring’ for not supporting successive rate rises (Special Rate Variations) while attacking me in the media (not for the first time).
Cr Williams has previously heard my reasons for not supporting the rate rise and would have heard them once again during the debate. What he’s not saying is that Ballina Council has a massive cash surplus, is the major developer of both residential and industrial land in the Ballina Shire and has over $80 million in term deposits.
I stand by my position that yet another rate rise wasn’t necessary.
Cr Jeff Johnson
Ballina Shire Councillor