RICHMOND Valley Council will go cap in hand to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to ask for a substantial rate rise over the next five years.
The decision was made at last week’s council meeting at which it was revealed that $1.4m in savings were made to the proposed $11.6m infrastructure revitalisation plan.
Evans Head council watcher Dr Richard Gates was the only member of the public to speak at the meeting, opposing the planned increase.
What the council wants you to pay and why
But all councillors, including lower rivers businessmen Daniel Simpson and Robert Hayes, spoke in favour of the revenue-raiser, citing it as the best way.
Given that population growth is stagnant, with its population of 22,037 expected to increase to just 23,900 by 2021, there is a need for the council to raise revenue through other channels.
As an example of what sort of expenses the council has to deal with, the Richmond Valley’s road network stretches for 1070km and includes 124 bridges.
This asset makes up just a portion of the council’s total infrastructure backlog valued at $27m.
Of the money raised:
Sealed road rehabilitation will gobble up $5m, gravel re-sheeting will cost $500,000 as will refurbishment of council parks.
Casino riverfront improvements will take just more than $1m while Woodburn riverfront will cost less than half a million. Evans Head CBD will demand half a million while Coraki riverfront will demand just $355,000.
Industrial land development will cost $761,000 and a plan to install wi-fi in Casino CBD, Woodburn and Evans Head would have cost $170,000, until it was revealed council’s IT staff will piggyback the wi-fi on to CCTV cameras, reducing expense by $20,000.
The Richmond Valley is in a low socio-economic area, however its rates have fallen “disproportionately” below similar “group four” councils, threatening its sustainability and the future wellbeing of the area.
That is why Richmond Valley Council is applying to IPART for a rate variation to raise an additional $7.6m in revenue over five years and with borrowings to achieve an expenditure program of $11.6m.
During the council’s public airing of the plan, many residents took the time to comment.
Mayor Ernie Bennett said the most common reason for not supporting the application came from farmers and pensioners doing it tough in the current economic climate, as well as residents still angry abut the amalgamation of the Casino and Richmond River councils 13 years ago.
“I empathise strongly with you and recommend you take advantage of council’s pensioner concessions, rebates and hardship policy to reduce the impact of increasing costs of living,” he wrote.
“The application not only ensures council’s sustainability into the future but will also deliver projects which will bolster our family-friendly lifestyle such as skate parks, playground improvements and upgrading of recreational reserves from Evans Head through Woodburn, Coraki and Casino.
“These economic development plans will ensure the growth of all townships and sealing of heavily used rural roads and urban laneways.”
Why the rate change?
RICHMOND Valley Council has asked for an increase in rates to raise an additional $7.6m over five years. Combined with borrowing, the council hopes to have $11.6m in hand to spend on a variety of infrastructure projects, mostly roads.
Residents will pay an average of $90 in the first year and $44 each year for the next four years.
Evans Head residents will pay three times as much as Casino residents, because of the greater value of their land.
Business houses will pay an average $234 more in year one and $117 extra in the years after.
Farms will pay $162 extra in the first year and $81 more each year thereafter.