Central Coast Council’s plan for two further special variation rate increases (worth about 30 per cent in total) are totally unjustified (Rate Rise Needs to Stay, CCN 418).
Council claims it needs the first special variation in 2026 to compensate for an IPART decision that removes stormwater drainage charges from its general fund.
Whilst this does impact the general fund, it also benefits Council’s water and sewer fund by the same amount – so there should be no net cost to ratepayers.
The Long Term Financial Plan shows, however, an increase in general fund rates without the compensating reduction in water rates – a cynical rate hike by sleight of hand.
Council also wants to extend the “temporary” 10-year 15 per cent rate hike due to expire in 2031.
They now claim this was insufficient – despite IPART giving them the exact amount and the exact 10-year period they applied for.
The money was given for short-term emergency purposes such as repaying financial crisis loans.
It should not be needed after the loans are repaid if Council is managing its affairs effectively.
These rate hikes, worth about $57M per year extra by 2031, are in response to a projected cumulative deficit, on current settings, of $360M by 2033.
No options were presented to reduce this deficit through efficiencies or better cost control.
By the end of the plan period, employee costs at $301M are projected to be 85 per cent higher than in the Administrator’s first budget in 2021/22.
This suggests they have all but given up on productivity improvements.
Once again ratepayers are being asked to pay for continuing poor management.
Rather than yet another ratepayer bail-out, Council would be better off implementing long overdue reforms to improve management performance, productivity, efficiency, prioritisation and culture.
Email, Dec 1
Kevin Brooks, Bensville