The announcement of a 2.3 per cent rate cap for 2017/18 by IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal Home) is a little bit more than Nambucca Shire Council’s General Manager, Michael Coulter, was expecting.
“Nonetheless the increase is broadly in line with the assumptions in our long term financial plan which is that the rate peg approximately keeps pace with our cost index,” Mr Coulter said.
“We don’t start putting together next year’s budget until early in the new calendar year but in terms of the impact of previous rate increases on our infrastructure maintenance, we are in an improved position.
“Our bridge replacement program is largely funded, the renewal of sealed roads is going OK and we have more funding being applied to the re-sheeting of gravel roads.”
He said however the handover of responsibility for the Old Pacific Highway from the RMS to Council was the big ticket item lurking that would have a long term negative impact and had not yet been brought to account.
“I guess for the lay person wanting evidence of Council’s improved financial position, out of 170 bridges we now only have about seven which have load limits and all of these will be replaced in the next few years.
“We can now afford and have the skills/capacity to replace bridges in concrete rather than timber which will provide substantial savings for future generations.
Out of 170 bridges we now only have about seven which have load limitsMichael Coulter
“For those who have lived in the Valley for a while, they will remember a time when load limited bridges were quite common.”
President of Local Government NSW, Keith Rhoades, said the rate cap was encouraging.
“IPART has heard us about the pressures on local government budgets, acknowledging increasing increases in labour costs, electricity and street lighting charges, and higher construction costs for roads, drains, footpaths, kerbing and bridges,” Cr Rhoades said.
“The announcement includes the decision to drop the productivity factor from the rate peg calculation - something LGNSW has advocated for many years, as well a s a proposal to bring the annual rate cap announcement forward from late November to early September for next year.
“This means members will now have the information they need for their budget processes in a more timely manner.”
He considered these were two wins for the sector.
“While the Association continues to campaign against the rate cap as an artificial constraint on infrastructure and service delivery, it is important to recognise and acknowledge that the message is getting through.”