Tamworth Regional Council has confirmed they will still pursue a 36.3 percent special rate variation even after the NSW Government handed down one of the biggest rate rises of 4.9 per cent this week.
Tamworth Regional Council General Manager, Paul Bennett, says IPART’s determination will have no impact on their application.
“This doesn’t change our position around our special rate variation, all it means is the estimated 3.5% that we thought was going to occur with the rate peg, that 4.9% will corporate into the overall figure,” said Mr Bennett.
“It won’t change the level of our special rate variation, it is still 36.3% across the two years, but from the community’s perspective it is a smaller increase above the rate peg it otherwise would have been.”
“It didn’t matter if the rate peg was 10 percent or 15 percent, our increase still would have been exactly the same.”
Residents are not impressed with this response, with members of Tamworth Region Residents Ratepayers Association (TRRRS) concerned the special rate variation in no longer needed with the rate peg hike.
“We have just come out of COVID and a drought of many years, and it looks like we are heading for another one, and with the cost-of-living people cannot afford these continued financial hits,” said Robyn Lang, Secretary of Tamworth Region Residents Rate Payers Association.
“Pension rates haven’t gone up, salaries aren’t matching the rise, and the cost of rental properties is growing, and they will soar higher as landlord’s raise their rents to meet the rate rises.”
The group is currently circulating a petition addressed to Tamworth Regional Council General Manager asking the council to look elsewhere.
The petition currently has 751 signatures online and 993 on paper.
“According to a report commissioned by Tamworth Regional Council by Morrison Low, Tamworth regional area is in the lowest 23 percent of socioeconomic cohorts, which indicated we are not an affluent area as a whole,” said Ms Lang.
“To have the rates go up so significantly within a short period of time is putting undue pressure on residents.”
Tamworth Regional Council will have many considerations ahead of next week’s council meeting on November 28th, where they will make the final decision on whether to apply for the SRV.
“We have certainly looked at the issues around people on fixed incomes and in particular pensioners, there will be some options put to council next week about how we can best compensate and lessen the impact on those ratepayers.” said Mr Bennett.
However, if it is not a rate rise it could be council services or assets on the chopping block.
“When IPART does their assessment, they will ask is this fair and reasonable, does that reflect the reality for Tamworth Regional Council to maintain their assets and then deliver their current services.” said Mr Bennetts
“IPART could hand down a different assessment, however, moving forward Council needs to adopt the SRV in June as part of the budget process.”
“This is about demonstrating what is required to stay sustainable.”
“If Council decides to go to IPART our work will not stop, we will continue to support residents and ratepayers and will be making a submission to IPART.” Said Ms Lang.
The petition will remain open and ongoing.
Rate Pegging; What’s new?
Last week the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) announced several changes on how it sets the state’s annual rate peg. This is the maximum amount a local government can increase rates each year, outside of a special rate variation application.
Tamworth Regional Council has welcomed the new changes.
“It highlights to people how flawed the previous system was around our rate pegging,” said Mr Bennett.
“Historically, we have been getting two and two and half percent rate pegs, last year was 3.7% which was a surprise, but the new methodology has demonstrated the cost increases for local government are certainly much higher than previously given.”
“If we had rate pegs like this of 4.9% over the last ten years it is very unlikely council would have needed to go for a special rate variation.”
“What the future rate pegs will do is, once we are back to the level of revenue we should be as an organisation, future rate pegs, if they aligned like this current announcement, should negate the need for any further SRV’s in the future.”
Rate Pegs Across the New England
Armidale 4.5% Glen Innes Severn 4.5% Gunnedah 4.5% Gwydir 4.5% Inverell 4.5% Liverpool Plains 4.5% Moree Plains 4.5% Narrabri 4.5% Tamworth 4.9% Tenterfield 4.5% Uralla 4.5% Walcha 4.5%