Increase in fees and charges to add $10M to council coffers

Central Coast Councillor Greg BestCentral Coast Councillor Greg Best.

The price of applying for a tree to be registered with Central Coast Council’s Significant Tree Register is now $250.

The new fee was one of the charges set for the 2020-2021 financial year and adopted by councillors at a special meeting on June 29.

Cr Louise Greenaway picked up on the tree fee, asking who paid it and calling it an odd charge.

Planning and Environment Director Scott Cox said the person suggesting a tree be registered would pay the fee.

Under questioning, he was not sure what the fee had been in the past and took the question on notice.

It is believed to have been free, although Mr Cox is yet to confirm that.

Cr Greenaway said the council had resolved in August 2019 to expand the Significant Tree Register into the former Wyong area and to minimise the cost to ratepayers.

Cr Greenaway voted against the fees and charges policy at the council meeting.

In total, revenue received from council fees and charges was estimated to be $56,671,859 at the end of this financial year based on the third quarter changes, down markedly from $66,623,902 in the 2018-2019 financial year.

It is however budgeted to jump back up to $67,224,885 in the 2020-2021 financial year.

Cr Greg Best said the increased fees and charges would result in an extra $10M for council coffers in addition to an estimated $4.4M from the rise in council rates.

Acting chief financial officer Carlton Oldfield later released figures which showed the increase was due to expected increases in demand as well as any fee increases

Councillor Best also said the 2019-2020 financial year was facing a reported loss of $41M against a budgeted loss of $18M and the 2020-2021 financials were budgeting for a loss of $35M.

“If we track the same as in 2019, then our loss for 2021 well may approach $70M with no allowances for COVID yet,” Cr Best said after the meeting.

“Simply put, unless real action is taken to right side this pending situation, ratepayers will pay dearly.”

Cr Bruce McLachlan said after the meeting that it was difficult to analyse the fee changes.

“We are given the same document as the business paper, and Cr (Doug) Vincent made the comment in debate on the difficulty for councillors to analyse individual fees,” he said.

“Many are statutory or are in existing leases.

“From memory the fees and charges councillors have debated and voted on individually have been based around sporting club charges, and reductions in circus ground hire.

“We had in the previous year, made inroads to resident costs, and reduced the charges, by $10M, but now the financial decisions have finally caught up, and fees are being put back up.

“It is far easier for councillors not to waste the money in the first instance, than try and recoup it from the community in raised charges.”

Cr McLachlan and Cr Best also voted against the charges.

Mayor Cr Lisa Matthews and Cr Jillian Hogan did not debate or vote on the fees and charges citing pecuniary interests.

Cr Hogan is the manager of the San Remo Neighbourhood Centre and the centre utilises several council buildings for which she is responsible.

The Mayor had not responded by deadline to Chronicle inquiries as to her pecuniary interest.

Cr Kyle MacGregor moved the fees and charges be adopted with an extra point that Council continues with its current fees and charges for sporting groups and ground hire into next year to provide certainty for the sector.

Agenda Item 3.1
Central Coast Council meeting, June 29
Media statements, Jun 30
Cr Greg Best, Cr Bruce McLachlan, Cr Louise Greenaway

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