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Council talks rates hike to balance books

That would extend a 15-year scheme paid by Tumut Shire residents since 2005. It was meant to end next year, and was never meant to hit residents in the hip pocket in the first place.

The council is yet to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the rates hike application.

The proposal would first have to go to the community, and then get approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. The increase would come into effect in the next financial year (2020-21) and bring in an extra $650,000 or so each year to the council’s coffers.

At the time the council first proposed the existing rates increase in 2003, it told residents they wouldn’t be paying any more each year to the council, promising to reduce water and sewerage charges by the same amount to offset the rates increase.

But that commitment was quietly abandoned in 2010.

The existing rates increase has brought in about $8 million and been used on projects such as road upgrades, stormwater works and parks improvements.

The council has been recording deficits since its merger and its long term financial plan predicts that won’t change anytime soon.

In an effort to reach a surplus in the next few years, the council is aiming to find about $2m in savings.

They include reducing employee costs by $1m over the next four years.

The council will this year spend $13.5m on wages. That’s considerably down on the previous two years, when the council forked out $16.5m.

But even with the flagged savings, the projected wages bill over the next decade is about 45 per cent of the council’s total expenditure, higher than most comparable councils.

Along with those savings, the council is proposing to apply for a special rates variation of 10 per cent above the IPART approved annual increase, which this year stands at 2.9 per cent.

Without it, the council’s financial future is gloomy – it would still be recording deficits a decade from now and would not be able to fund asset renewals, the council’s long term financial plan predicts.

The report states that without the special rate variation, the council wouldn’t be able to generate sufficient funds to deliver its current level of services and infrastructure.

The council knows a rate increase will be contentious, particularly given it’s yet to bring the rates and charges of the former Tumut and Tumbarumba councils onto the same footing.

The council is also hoping to get some extra income out of residents through user fees and charges.

It’s planning to bring in an extra $100,000 in a couple of years, then $50,000 each year thereafter.