Greater Shepparton City Council adjusted to the State imposed rate cap of 2.5% relatively seamlessly. Rate capping takes autonomy away from each Local Council to set their own rate increases, due to questionable rate rises set by only a few Councils. The blanket 2.5% cap handicaps Councils who have been efficient and favours Councils with meat on the bone. I feel we fall into the latter category. Therefore savings can be made from increased efficiencies and unnecessary legal costs from extended investigations.
During the last election I spoke about extortionate rate rises in Greater Shepparton. It used to be our rates were high because Council had no borrowings, but you can thank Councillors, from the last two successive terms, for both high rates AND accelerated borrowings that will limit our capacity to borrow for worthy projects in the future. Some borrowings were a justified success, such as the Victoria Park Lake upgrade, but some are more questionable, such as SAM and the hefty price tag on GV Link, which remains empty and is likely to stay that way without a bypass.
We’ve seen NSW transition into rate-capping territory, with some devastating consequence on local services. It’s imperative our Council remains financially sustainable by finding efficiencies and exploring alternative funding methods. Councillors must resist service cuts, increased user fees and Special Charges.
Council has already cut HACC services without due consideration to the ‘triple bottom line’ economic impact on carers, who may experience burn-out due to dramatically reduced respite hours. HACC hours must be re-instated, at least until the NDIS roll-out is well established in Greater Shepparton.
User fees in waste management are high due to rising EPA requirements and charges. Evidence suggests people are dumping rubbish due to the cost. I’d sooner move towards a subsidised model, with complementary tip tickets and a bi-annual hard rubbish collection.
Special Charges can be financially cumbersome on individuals and I’d argue the Shepparton East Special Charge Drainage Scheme is a core Council responsibility that should have been funded by general rates, in the form of a transparent levy. How far will we take a Special Charge? Will residents be required to pay for footpaths, municipal street trees, as well as rates?