GLEN Innes Severn Council has been given the green light to boost its rate coffers following an announcement by the state’s pricing regulator.
Increasing labour, construction costs and energy charges gave the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) cause to allow councils in NSW to raise their rate revenue by 2.3 per cent from June.
The rate peg is more than 50 per cent higher than the 1.5 per cent limit handed-down last year.
While it’s the beefiest rate peg in recent years, Glen Innes mayor Steve Toms said it mightn’t be enough to combat growing council costs.
“It’s positive to have an increase, but there are limits to what the ratepayers can afford too,” Cr Toms told The Examiner.
Council may be forced to stretch its rate returns further, with statistics from the NSW Office of Local Government showing Glen Innes’ population shrunk by 2.8 per cent over the last five years.
The downturn in population is reflected across the region with Gwydir (-5.7), Walcha (-6.8) and Tenterfield (-0.5) shire populations dwindling.
Council raised $2.694 million in revenue from residential rates in 2016, according to the state government’s latest comparative report.
Farmland assessments pooled $2.653 million, while business contributed $558,000 to the rate kitty.
Despite the relatively generous rate-peg for next year, Cr Toms said the additional revenue would “mark out some more time” with rising costs.
“It will probably be absorbed by cost of living increases, wages and fuel and all of these things keep escalating,” he said.
“Council’s cost keeps going up, rate pegs have not been enough in the past, 2.3 per cent will still be the same.”
IPART chair Peter Boxall said next year’s rate peg is higher than the previous two years (1.8 per cent in 2016/17 and 1.5 per cent in 2017/18), primarily due to increases in labour costs, electricity and street lighting charges, and higher construction costs for roads, drains, footpaths, kerbing and bridges.
“Since the rate peg applies to general income in total, and not to individual rate assessments, it is up to each council to determine whether to apply the allowed increase in full and how to allocate the increase between households, businesses and other ratepayer categories,” Dr Boxall said.
Councils have until December 15 to apply for a special rate variation.