INDEPENDENT NEWS

Now Is The Time To Get Real On Rates

Published: Thu 27 Nov 2003 09:13 AM
Now Is The Time To Get Real On Rates
If the Porirua Council is to get a grip on its budget it must act now, says a Porirua City Councillor.
Councillor Robert Shaw said rates increased 5.21% last year and rates hit record levels.
The Council "has never tackled the rates issue in a realistic way".
Council now takes almost $30 million from ratepayers each year, which is an all-time record.
Just 3 years ago, they took $24 million and the number of ratepayers was about the same as today.
Fees and charges are now also at record levels, over $7.5 million.
In addition, the Council for the first time in the history of the City plans for a deficit. They plan for an operating loss of $892,000.00.
Last year the council made an operating profit of $765,000. Ratepayers paid to much that year and will pay to little this year. Council needs to learn how to balance its budget.
The real rates rise last year was disguised by publicity that was focused on the rates rise for small selected groups.
Most of the increase was forced on Council because of its own imprudence, and an increase in staff costs that was sprung on councillors mid-year.
This year the Council is not doing any big projects but its income is at record levels.
Council has to learn to set a tough budget and stick to it. There are too many items funded simply because there is money available.
The surplus of funds makes it easy to run the council and to be everyone's friend, but it is grossly unfair on the ratepayers. The challenge for all councils it to gain focus and be prudent.
Now Council is being driven down a track as it develops its 10 year budget plan.
We need to immediately ask the ratepayers' if they want to continue with the high level of rates or if they want Council to plan for a reduction over the next 10 years.
An easy way to gain a balanced perspective on the level of rates would be to ask the residents' associations to express an opinion.
Recent publicity on the 10-year plan should be about the rates issue and things that are of concern in the suburbs. At the moment all we get are lists of projects for the city centre.
Councillor Shaw said he was pleased his recent motion on rates will be considered shortly. My colleagues need to come to a consensus on how the Council will handle the rates issue.
It is "vital we do this at the start of the budget process", he added.

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