Slashed grants to blame

SLASHED grants, Bluewaters Power Station’s refusal to pay rates according to a government valuation and rising costs have contributed to Collie Shire’s 6.8 per cent rate rise in the 2012/13 budget.

The increase is 2.3 per cent higher than the council’s long-term financial plan objectives, chief executive officer Jason Whiteaker said yesterday.

He noted negative comments about the rate increase, but said people needed to understand the facts.

Mr Whiteaker said there had been several hammer blows to the council’s earlier expectations. These included:

z a $200,000 reduction in annual operating grants administered by the State Government;

z annual operating grants reduced by an additional $200,000 per annum over the next three years;

z inability to secure $420,000 in funding from the rating of Bluewaters Power Station as a result of an appeal on the rates; and

z Significantly rising electricity and water costs, imposed by the State Government have increased council’s utility expenditure by approximately $45,000.

Mr Whiteaker said the council increased its operating expenditure by 1.05 per cent (not including depreciation) even though the Local Government Price Index indicated that the costs increase “should have been in the order of 3.5 to 4.5 per cent”.

“Had the circumstances around government grants and rating not impacted the council, its rate increase would have been in line with its long-term financial plan.

“This council has shown for many, many years, its conservative approach to increasing rates and limiting the impacts on the community”

“Our rate increases since 2007/08 have been 4.6 per cent, 4.6 per cent 4.1 per cent, 3.31 per cent 4.38 per cent and now 6.8 per cent.

“Compare that with what has been occurring around the State and you will get a picture of the responsible approach to budgeting this council takes” Mr Whiteaker said.

This year’s rates increase would affect different people differently.

“Unfortunately, we are not in total control for rating individual properties,” he said.

“How the rating system works is the Valuer-General provides a valuation for each individual property and the council sets a rate in the dollar, which when applied to the valuation strikes the final rate amount.

“When some valuations increase significantly more than others, the council has to accept that some ratepayers will receive a significantly higher increase than others” Mr Whiteaker said.

“The council’s rate in the dollar has actually come down significantly over the past three years. In 1999/00 our rate in the dollar was over 10 cents, where it remained until the past two years. It is now 7.95 cents in the dollar – a 20 per cent reduction.”

Councillors were mindful of cost of living pressures, he said.

“If people are experiencing financial struggles, I would strongly encourage them to call the council and discuss a rate payment plan option,” Mr Whiteaker said.