Rates hike blow for council

The State Government has dealt Byron council a severe blow in rejecting an application for a special rates variation to help fund major projects.


The council had applied to the NSW Department of Local Government for a special rates variation increase of 6.98 per cent on top of the pegged 2.6 per cent increase.


Mayor Jan Barham said the knockback was “very disappointing” and the council would review the budget at a meeting today.


General manager Graeme Faulkner said the rejection of the variation would make it a financially challenging year for the council.


Mr Faulkner said rates might be pegged at 2.6 per cent, but community expectations and requests for new services and support were increasing each year.


He said the decision meant the council’s budget would be about $320,000 in deficit for this financial year.


“Council has a benchmark of maintaining $1 million surplus in available funding for projects,” he said.


“The rate pegging will see this reduced to $518,000 by the end of June 2011.”


Mr Faulkner said the council would now need to reconsider the budget to find alternative funding sources or delay some programs.


He said the special rates variation was to assist with costs for a new Byron Bay library, regional library contribution, emergency services contribution, beach scraping at New Brighton, Wategos walking track, cycleway construction, information technology and Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex.


The council was preparing a four-year community strategic integrated plan and had recently undertaken a complete asset and maintenance review, he said.


Mr Faulkner said the community would be consulted in the coming months on the programs and projects it supported.
 


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