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‘General unhappiness’ with plans to increase rates

A public meeting in Jerilderie last week expressed a 'general feeling of unhappiness' surrounding proposed rate increases.

SOPHIE BURGE May 28, 2014 3:11am

Jerilderie Shire Council says it will hold further meetings on proposed plans to increase its income, after describing a ‘‘general feeling of unhappiness’’ at last week’s public meeting.

Council has proposed to increase rates by 10 per cent a year in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

It also recommended cost cutting measures which included only having one librarian rostered on at one time, introducing a user pays waste depot model and removing lifeguard positions for the Jerilderie pool.

Jerilderie Shire general manager Craig Moffitt maintains the changes are necessary to ensure council can continue meeting community standards.

He said a combination of low to no rate increases over 25 years and ever reducing government funding has put the council in a dire financial situation.

Mr Moffitt said while residents at the meeting understood council’s position, the cost cutting measures were not whole-heartedly supported.

He said the proposed increases to rates and changes to library staffing were particular sticking points at the meeting.

‘‘Concern was expressed from the rural ratepayers that they’re shouldering the burden, as the biggest financial portion of the rates comes from them,’’ he said.

‘‘Other planned proposals generally had support at the meeting, however concerns were expressed about reduction in staffing at the library.

‘‘We plan to host another public meeting because we need to reflect on consequences on the Federal Government’s proposal to not index the financial assistance grants, which is one of our major sources of income.

‘‘This will have a very dramatic effect on our ability to provide services, so we’ll need to take that back to the community as well.’’

The proposed 10 per cent rate increase for future financial years is significantly higher than the state imposed 2.3 per cent cap.

Council must have the approval of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to pass on the increase.

Mr Moffitt said it would make up much of the losses, and that support from the community would help the process.

While the increases and cuts are yet to be officially adopted by Jerilderie Shire Council, he said it would proceed with one income raising initiative.

Council will introduce a user pays system at the waste depot, which Mr Moffitt said is soon to be a state government requirement.

‘‘At the moment people pay within their rates, however this new system is part of a state government requirement that is just around the corner.

‘‘We’ve been preparing for it and it will be introduced this year.’’

An official start date of the user pays system is yet to be confirmed. A pricing structure is also yet to be released.

Mr Moffitt said as part of the new structure and government requirements, the waste depot would be manned by a council employee.

A date for the next public meeting had not yet been announced.

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