Lismore Council last night voted for a 26 per cent increase residential rates over four years to fund a major investment in local roads and the reinvigoration of the Lismore CBD.
In a bold move leading up to next year’s elections, the council voted at an extraordinary meeting to ask the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for permission to introduce a series of rate increases over four years.
The rate increases, which will compound over the four year period, will include a 7.5 per cent increase in 2020-21, 9.4 per cent in the 2021022, 3.9 per cent in 2022-23, and 3.2 per cent in 2023-24.
This equates to a 26 per cent increase in real terms over the course of the period.
Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said it had been a very hard decision for councillors to make, but there was ‘no alternative’.
‘Since 2012, the community has repeatedly told us two things: they want improved roads and more investment in our CBD, which is critical for local jobs,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, the only way to find the money for these investments is to ask the State Government for a Special Rate Variation.
‘We have the largest road network of any council in the Northern Rivers, and a maintenance backlog of more than $54 million which has been built up over consecutive councils.
‘None of us want to increase rates but there is no alternative. Over the term of this council we have cut spending by millions of dollars, appointed a new General Manager to put new cost-saving measures in place and, introduced a staff freeze, plus much more.
‘There is nothing left to trim, which means if we didn’t vote for the rise, we would have to cut the essential services that the community wants.
The council will now write to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which will make the final decision on whether to approve the increase.
‘If our application is approved, this will be the largest investment in our roads in living memory,’ Cr Smith said.