The decision by the Independent Pricing and
Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to approve an application for a two-year Special
Rate Variation (SRV) for Coffs Harbour has been welcomed by Council.
“This is good news for the Coffs Harbour Local
Government Area. It will provide us with the platform we need to continue
giving residents the services they want into the future,” said Coffs Harbour
Mayor, Councillor Denise Knight. “We didn’t make the application lightly. We
totally understand that the question of ‘can I afford this rate rise?’ is
uppermost in people’s minds.
“We listened to those concerns and that’s why we
voted to freeze water and sewer access charges, as well
reduce the fee for septic system inspections for
the next three years, so that we could keep any increase affordable for the
IPART has approved a two-year Special Rate
Variation (SRV) of 8.14% for 2015/16 and 7.75% for 2016/17, which includes the rate
peg in each year, being 2.4% in 2015/16.
With the price freeze in water and sewer annual charges
- the overall increase in annual bills will be limited to no more than
approximately 3.9% for the average urban ratepayer. The 3.9% will also include
the annual rate increase set by the State Government.
In addition, after the first year, Council will
again review the progress achieved from its Transformation to Sustainability
Program and other financial sustainability initiatives currently underway, and
consider whether the rate increase proposed for 2016/17 is necessary.
The SRV rate increase will generate an approximate
additional $4.2m (above the rate pegging allowances) in rate revenue by the
second year – which will be dedicated to asset maintenance and renewal so as to
prevent the further deterioration of our public infrastructure assets, such as
roads, bridges, buildings, playgrounds and amenities.
“Efficiency and affordability are also the
watchwords that Council is operating under,” said Andrew Beswick, Council’s
Director of Business Services.
“We applied for the SRV as a way to continue providing
the services the community desires, while also making sure that the
infrastructure that underpins those services can be kept in a safe and
reasonable working condition.”
“We’re also well on the way through our own
internal Transformation to Sustainability Program, which is forecast to produce
savings through efficiency of $3.2m after three years,” said Mr Beswick.
“Plus we’re continuing to look for ways to increase
profits through our business units and the commercialisation of Council’s
CityWorks construction division, as well as further improving our management of
assets and services to ensure the community receives the most value for money.”
Council carried out a wide-ranging public
consultation on the proposed SRV which included a brochure and reply-paid
postcard for responses sent to all ratepayers, a public online survey and a
survey of Council’s Online Survey Panel, which represents a statistically
accurate portion of the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area population.
Around 5,500 postcards were returned to Council and
approximately 500 people responded to the online survey. The consultation
revealed significant opposition to the SRV with the main concern being the
affordability of the rate increase.
This opposition was noted by IPART, but the
Tribunal also highlighted Council’s response to the affordability issue in
proposing the freezing of certain charges to reduce the impact of the ordinary
rate increases on the total rate bill. This played a key part in the decision
to approve Council’s application.
Council will consider a report on June 11 2015 to
adopt its rating structure for 2015/16.