Kingborough Council plans to continue its decade long attack on ratepayers with yet another rate rise well above consumer price index (CPI) increases.

The proposed increase for 2017-18 of 8.8% comes after Council produced the largest deficit ($2.17m) of any Tasmanian Council in 2015-16 and looks set to record another large deficit (over $1m) in 2016-17.

Rate rises vs CPI

 

Over this period, Council has been dealing with ongoing deficits by increasing rates, rather than reviewing expenditure (or a mixture of both). Council has been deciding what level of expenditure it believes is appropriate and simply adjusting its revenue (rate rises) to match its desired level of spending.

If this 8.8% rate rise is approved, Kingborough ratepayers will be facing rates notices almost 70% higher than they were a decade ago.

I will be voting against this 8.8% rate rise like I have the 4% rises in my two preceding years on Council.  But it’s irresponsible to vote against the rate rise without acknowledging that this means savings are required.

In that respect, I’m proposing a mixture of savings and increased user chargers. Across Council’s budget, these include financial improvements in the areas of Corporate Governance ($161,500), Community Services ($48,500), Arts and Culture ($110,870), Family Day Care ($52,755), Kingborough Sports Centre ($27,003), Environment Services ($6,000) and Natural Resource Management ($75,500).

Examples of some of these changes include scrapping Antarctic Experience, a program which sends secondry students to Antarctica; increasing user charges at the Kingborough Gym (in order that it breaks even); and ceasing to fund arts programs.

The remaining savings required to avoid large rate rises  can then be acquired through efficiency dividends across Council operations throughout its long term financial plan. The broader point I continue to make is that Councils are basically unregulated monopolies. Property owners can’t choose not to pay rates, they’re forced to. While other government monopolies like utilities require regulatory approval for their price rises, Councils do not.

Over the past few months Councillors have been involved in several budget workshops. I have raised proposed savings through thAt process but there has been little appetite to reduce any service.  In that regard, I think it's likely this 8.8% rate rise will be passed by majority.

With a State election within the next year both major parties should be seriously considering taking on rate capping as an election policy to protect Tasmanians from Council monopolies.