The question of whether Tweed Shire Council would apply for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) of 2.35 per cent was, and was not, decided at last week’s council meeting. A motion was passed by the majority of councillors that approved the application to the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) so that the option to take up the SRV remained available.
Need another $1.6M
Tweed Council delivers over 50 different services and the staff identified that there is approximately $1.6M in funding required that will not be covered by the standard peg rate increase and that an SRV would need to be considered to fund this.
The ‘NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) announced a rate peg amount (including the new population growth factor) that would increase Tweed Shire Council’s general income by four per cent for 2023/24,’ stated the staff report.
The SRV would then increase the rate base by another 2.35 per cent which would cover the $1.6M predicted shortfall.
Mayor Chris Cherry put forward the alternate motion that would keep the option of an SRV available to councillors while other saving measure alternatives had been considered. This motion approved the application for a 2.35 per cent SRV while also seeking measures that would potentially reduce the council’s outgoings and negate the need for an SRV.
Cr Cherry highlighted that last year ‘around 70 of the 128 councils in New South Wales did to a special rate variation [last year]… we did not feel that it was appropriate to do that to our very impacted community at that point.’
Inflation and cost of living
Issues around increasing costs of living and inflation were highlighted by the Mayor as reasons that they may need an SRV if they cannot find savings within the existing expenditure.
‘It is very, very hard for councils to be able to provide the same services with the inflation rate that we have without increasing the monies that we collect,’ she said.
‘The only way Council can increase the money it collects above the approved rate-pegged amount set by IPART is by applying for a Special Rate Variation, which Tweed has not done for 10 years.’
Cr Cherry also pointed to the property valuations that had been done this year and highlighted that, ‘we have a large increase in property value and there’s nothing that council can do about that’.
She said in an area like Casurina they were looking at an increase in rates of ‘$500 to $2,000’ without the SRV and that the SRV would only make a further difference of ‘$75 to $150 per year’ in these areas.
Cr Cherry stressed it was important ratepayers understood Council had no influence over rising land valuations recently released by the NSW Valuer-General, which show a dramatic rise in valuations across the Shire, particularly on the Tweed Coast.
‘It’s really important people understand that rising land valuations don’t mean Council can collect more money,’ Cr Cherry said.
‘All this means is it changes the way rates are distributed across the Shire, meaning some people will pay more rates, some will remain the same and some may pay less. The only way Council can continue to deliver the same services is through a rate variation.’
Motion for no SRV
Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes (Labor) then put another alternate motion ‘not to submit an SRV for 2023’ however, this did not get a seconder and lapsed.
Councillors Meredith Dennis, Dr Nola Firth, Warren Polglase and James Owen all spoke on the SRV and said they were prepared to support the motion if the council was also looking at ways to reduce their costs that may negate the need for an SRV.
Cr Firth was clear to point out that on the scale of rates Tweed Shire Council was not at the most expensive end and sat in the middle when considered against other councils of a similar size.
Staff clarified for councillors that there would be a series of workshops that would take place between now and the first week in June when ‘Council receives the IPART determination’.
All councillors voted in favour of the motion except Cr Byrnes.
Check your property valuation
Following the discussion General Manager Troy Green took pains to point out that everyone should carefully look at their property valuations as they had been done at the peak of property values and some properties may have been overvalued.
‘There was a report that aired on ABC that showed the land values in the Northern Rivers had dropped in January,’ said Mr Green.
‘The Valuer General urges homeowners that if they believe that the valuation for their property is wrong, they need to write back in and they need to provide examples of properties next to them and around them to justify where that’s gone wrong.’
Take note, Councillor Byrnes was the only one, whom voted against the rate rise!
I’m glad to see that Tweed Shire Council is considering applying for this Special Rate Variation. It’s important to make sure that the Council has enough funds to be able to provide the necessary services to the community. It’s also great to see that the Council is taking the population growth factor into account to ensure that everyone is being taken care of.