Calculations on how much residents would pay with a proposed 15 percent rate rise rose to 42 percent for some ratepayers, Central Coast Council has conceded, if you include rate harmonisation.
The Council has adjusted the figures by which average rate bills will increase or decrease in its submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
There are still winners as former Wyong residents will still pay less than they are now, but the average has gone down to $2 a week, from $3 a week.
So instead of paying less by an average of $156, it is now only less by $104.
However, former Gosford residents have also done the sums and worked out that the increase for them is actually more like 42 percent rather than 15 percent when the rate harmonisation is included.
Council agrees and says that it is a difficult message to get across when there are two steps involved.
Step one is the harmonisation of rates between the former Wyong Council area and the former Gosford Council area.
Step two is a 15 percent rate rise added to the harmonised rates.
Step one will mean that on average, Wyong ratepayers will pay an average of 25 per cent less on land valued at 43 per cent less than Gosford land.
For former Gosford area ratepayers, step one sees them paying an extra 25 percent on average on land valued 43 percent higher than Wyong land.
Then the 15 percent rate rise will be added, if IPART agrees.
So, Gosford area ratepayers will pay on average about 40 percent more.
Wyong will pay on average about 10 percent less than they do now.
ActingDirectorofCorporate Affairs, Natalia Cowley, explained the system when she was interviewed by Scott Levi on ABC radio.
Levi also had ratepayer Kevin on the phone who said the figures that Council had submitted to IPART showed the percentages.
“I think most Gosford City ratepayers, like myself, will be shocked and horrified to learn that they are actually being slugged with a massive 42 percent rate hike rather than the 10 percent or 15 percent numbers they heard during the consultation,” Kevin said.
He accused the Administrator of being economical with the truth by not providing the real percentage increases during the consultation.
He said he hid behind sound bites like $7 a week but even that was inaccurate.
“The figures he has lodged with IPART show the average Gosford increase to be significantly more than that at over $420 per year.”
Cowley said Kevin was completely correct.
She agreed the $7 a week was actually just over $8 a week.
She explained that rates had been legally frozen since amalgamation and legally had to be harmonised this year.
She said IPART wanted the council’s Special Rate Variation calculations, not the blended figures of the rate harmonisation with the rate rise, even though the Council’s numbers had to include both.
“We just have not blended the two processes,” she said. Kevin said he didn’t believe Council was being transparent.
The figures saying former Wyong shire ratepayers will pay less doesn’t match the letter Council sent out, says Brian Davies, President of Ourimbah Region Residents Assocation.
“It says Wyong residential residents will pay more for both 10 percent and 15 percent.
“The argument for paying less seems to be based on averaging in farm and business and by saying property values are less on average than in former Gosford council areas.
“There is currently a real estate boom driven by Sydney people looking at a post- Covid world of working from home so land values will be on the rise, so everyone will be hit by a double whammy,” Davies said.
Toukley Community Action Group welcomes Council implementing rates harmonisation across the local government area.
Spokesperson, Bronwyn Evans, said residents in the former Wyong Council area had been paying significantly higher rates than residents in the former Gosford area.
“We feel that Council has been primarily focused on improvements and maintenance in the former Gosford area at our expense.
“Not only have we been paying more, we’ve been getting less.
“The next step in the rate adjustment requested from IPART is to cover the financial mismanagement highlighted by several consultant reports and the Administrator.
“It would appear that the blame for the financial mismanagement should be shared across state and local government.
“The NSW Audit Office and the Office of Local Government failed to detect errors in local government reporting and mismanagement.
“Councillors failed to understand the financial reports provided to them and most ignored (and some ridiculed) the concerns raised by their more aware colleagues.
“Senior management failed to competently manage within legislated requirements and the scope of their role,” Evans said.