Ratepayers respond to rate rise options

Central Coast Rates Rise

Ratepayers and residents are speaking up with their ideas on how Central Coast Council should manage its financial debt.

Council invited people to take a survey on Council’s suggestions of a 10 percent rate hike for seven years or a 15 percent permanent rate hike.

Resident, David Watts, says the rate increase would take 22 years to pay off its debt.

He says a better idea would be financing a half a billion dollar loan at two percent per year.

That would mean Council would have a $10M interest bill every year.

He said Council had $10B in assets and a plan to sell some to meet the financial obligations could be devised.

Others have taken issue with the survey itself, saying they refused to fill out the survey when it does not allow alternatives to either a 10 or 15 percent rate rise.

The Entrance businesswoman, Toni Moon, said “the survey screws us over no matter what you pick”.

Others suggest people should bypass the Council survey and go straight to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) website to have their say.

IPART will decide on whether Council can impose a rate rise and how much it can be.

Council has updated its website with a comment on January 18 saying that while it understood that many in the community did not want a rate rise, this was not a viable option.

“Council needs a rate rise to repay the restricted funds spent on community infrastructure and services and to deliver a level of service to the community that ensures our assets and essential services are maintained,” the Council statement said.

“Council resolved to consider two options: a 10 percent rate rise and a 15 percent rate rise (both including the rate peg of two percent), and is seeking community feedback on these two options only.”

Palmdale resident, Brian Davies, said he was like many others who refused to fill out the survey.

“It doesn’t matter if we put in dissenting comments, they’ll only count the ticked boxes,” he said.

“Whose future are we securing?

“The ratepayers didn’t get themselves into this mess and yet miraculously it’s no one’s fault?

“I see the rate rise as being like charging the lab rats to subsidise the experimenters.

“The State Government imposed this massive amalgamation experiment on a whole lot of Councils for political reasons and it’s been a dismal failure.

“It was not imposed on any proven basis and was always expected to take many years before any benefits were achieved.

“To be able to implement it, Councils need people to run the existing separate systems, plus they need people to work on the processes to merge the systems.

“No wonder staff costs went up.

“With the larger organisation comes greater complexity and more levels of management.

“To add insult to injury, the government has been cost shifting their responsibilities to councils so our rates are de facto taxes to the State Government as they spend less of the state taxpayer funds.

“And we see massive government grants to councils that don’t need help.

“Then there seems to be inadequate checks and balances in the accounting systems, especially with regard to restricted funds, and not just at Central Coast Council,” Davies said.

He questioned why the State Government or earlier CEO’s or CFO’s hadn’t moved to fix the problems.

“There seems to be a lot of finger pointing at the suspended elected councilors, but as I see it, the basic problems existed before they came on the scene,” he said.

“They could only work with the financial reports provided to them that did not show the true situation, as demonstrated by several outside investigations into finances not showing any problems.

“Admittedly during their time, we had COVID-19, fires, floods and beach erosion to make matters worse, but had we had adequate support for amalgamation and the State Government paying their share for disaster support, then I believe we’d be much better off.”

Feedback to IPART is open until March 1.

The Council survey closes at midnight Friday, January 29.

Merilyn Vale