New fees and charges have been set for the 2020-21 financial year and adopted by councillors at a special meeting on June 29.
The price of suggesting that a tree should be registered with Central Coast Council’s Significant Tree Register is now $250, a huge rise after being free of charge in the past.
Cr Louise Greenaway picked up on the tree fee, asking who paid and calling it an odd charge.
Planning and Environment Director, Scott Cox, said the person suggesting that 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.
However, it is believed to have been free, although Cox is still yet to confirm that.
Cr Greenaway said that 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.
Cr Greg Best said the increases would result in an extra $10M for council coffers.
Acting Chief Financial Officer, Carlton Oldfield, later released figures which showed that this was due to expected increases in demand as well as any fee increases.
Figures showed that Council received $66,623,902 in the 2018-19 financial year for fees and charges and that has dropped to an estimated $56,671,859 at the end of this financial year, based on the third quarter changes.
It is budgeted to jump up to $67,224,885 in the 2020-21 financial year.
Questions to Council on which fees went up and what the percentage rises were have not been answered by publication deadline.
Cr Best said the recent $4.4M rate rise added up to an overall 2021 rate take of $337M and $10M in rates and charges.
He said the 2019-20 financial year was facing a reported loss of $41M against a budgeted loss of $18M, and the 2020-21 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 also made the comment in debate on the difficulty for the councillors to analyse individual fees,” he said.
“Many are statutory or are in existing leases.
“From memory, the fees and charges that councillors have debated and voted on individually, have been based around sporting club charges and reductions in circus ground hire.
“In the previous year, we had 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 to recoup it from the community in raised charges,” he said.
Cr McLachlan and Cr Best also voted against the charges.
Mayor, 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 publication deadline to Chronicle inquiries as to her pecuniary interest.
Cr Kyle MacGregor moved that 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.
Meeting, Jun 29
Agenda Item 3.1
Central Coast Council
Media statements, Jun 30
Cr Best, Cr McLachlan, Cr Greenaway
Reporter: Merilyn Vale