*In it's weekly column for the Macleay Argus, Kempsey Shire Council outlines what happens next now that councillors have agreed to apply for a Special Rate Variation.
At the November ordinary meeting of council, councillors resolved to seek approval to vary Kempsey Shire Council property rates by a cumulative 42.7 per cent over three years.
Councillors emphasised however that this decision does not mean the rates will definitely go up by that amount.
Rather, it means that if the application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is approved, a Special Rate Variation is still one of the options available come June next year, when council will ultimately be aiming to set a sustainable financial path.
What steps will be taken between now and then?
Through the investigation undertaken since August, council identified an additional $2.7 million in savings each year, which includes a commitment to $500,000 in productivity savings and $583,000 savings on interest from lower predicted loan borrowings.
This is why we were able to propose a lower rate variation than initially predicted.
Several key documents have been revised to reflect updated financial and asset data, which councillors endorsed for public exhibition until Friday January 19, 2024.
We encourage the community to view these documents and to have their say.
The revised documents include:
- Long Term Financial Plan 2023-33
- Strategic Asset Management Plan 2022-32
- Hardship Relief to Rate Payers procedure, and
- Recovery of Unpaid Rates, Charges and Other Debts procedure.
To view these documents and to have your say, head to ksc.pub/ysm
The application to IPART will be submitted no later than February 5, 2024 and IPART will then conduct an additional period of community engagement.
Council's application will seek approval for a cumulative increase of 42.7 per cent, including the rate peg, over three years commencing July 2024.
This will consist of 7.9% in year one and 15% in years two and three which compounds to 42.7% over three years.
The application will include the results of council's program to review asset management plans, proposed capital programs, productivity savings, assessing the community's capacity to pay and details of the comprehensive community engagement program.
If IPART does approve the application, then councillors will decide in June 2024 by how much to increase the rates.
In the meantime, council staff will continue to search for viable cost savings and productivity improvements that could potentially reduce the rate increase, should it be implemented.
Additionally, efforts will be directed towards advocating to other levels of government for improved and increased funding for the local government sector.