Rates rubber stamped to rise from August

Central Coast Council has officially rubber stamped its plans to increase rates by 15 per cent and harmonise rates across the two former Gosford and Wyong local government areas.

For Peninsula (former Gosford Council) residents, the increase could be as much as 40 per cent or more.

Council has also flagged plans to try to make the rate increase permanent.

When accepting the council’s need for a special rate variation (SRV) the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) only allowed the increase for three years.

Council says its income will be reduced by $22.8M in 2024-25 unless it gets a further rate rise.

The meeting to adopt the rate rise – and the harmonising of the rates between the former Wyong and Gosford areas  – was held on Tuesday, June 29.

It was an important meeting, as the Administrator Rik Hart said.

The council also adopted its operational plan and budget at the same meeting.

In the operational plan, the council explained it will need to apply to IPART for a further rate rise.

Hart announced at the meeting that he hoped to put the case to IPART as soon as possible.

“It should be noted that whilst the approved SRV (special rate variation) provides Council short term stability for three years, it does not provide for long term financial sustainability beyond 2024-2025 and a further SRV will be required,” the council said.

Adopting the plan enables the council to levy rates and charges prior to July 31.

“If rates and charges are levied and notices issued by July 31 then the first quarterly instalments will be due August 31, 2021,” council said.

The amount by which a rate payer’s rates will change will depend on two factors, the land value (as determined by the NSW Valuer General) and the fact Peninsula properties are located in the former Gosford City Council area.

“On average, property owners in the former Wyong will see a decrease in ordinary rates while property owners in the former Gosford will see an increase in ordinary rates,” Council said.

Fees and charges also went up with the adoption of the operational plan.

Local sporting bodies tried without success to stop a five per cent increase in fees.

The Administrator informed Central Coast Sports Council representatives  that its fees were lower than those of many other Councils and there would be no changes to the way fees were administered.

“Whilst there is a proposed five per cent increase, the proposed fees for 2021-22 have been benchmarked against other surrounding LGAs and are considered reasonable and fair,” the report said.

Council also declined to adopt its Greener Places Strategy as requested during the public exhibition period of the plan.

Council said the strategy had been due for adoption but its budget and resources had been allocated to higher priority projects.

The revenue to be raised from Ordinary Rates is estimated to be $199M and the revenue from Special Rates is estimated to be $2.8M.

The revenue from Annual Waste charges is estimated to be $81M.

The operational plan states that council’s external loan balances were forecast to be $347M at June 30.

The plan also stated that “cost shifting continues to place a significant burden on council’s financial situation, to the tune of approximately $45 million per annum”.

The higher levels of government “shift costs” without providing corresponding funding or adequate revenue raising capacity.

Council expects its deficit at the end of the financial year just finished will be $103M or less, down from $115M first projected in the first quarter of this year.

Next year’s budget projects a modest surplus of $7M with a capital works program of $175M.

At the same meeting, the May investment reports showed council’s current cash and investment portfolio was valued at $483.01 million at May 31.

The portfolio earned $408,000 in interest.

A total of $430M were restricted funds and $52.2M was unrestricted.

Merilyn Vale