The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has approved Bega Valley Shire Council’s application for a permanent Special Rate Variation (SRV) of 43.6% across two years.
The first general rate rise of 24% for 2023-24 would come into effect from July 1 this year while the 19.6% inrease would be introduced for 2024-25 from July 1 2024.
Bega Valley Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick said Councillors would carefully consider the implications of the determination and assess whether to proceed with the SRV at the 28 June Council meeting.
“Of the 17 NSW councils that applied for an SRV, 14 received full approval after demonstrating that without additional funds, they would not be able to remain financially sustainable and deliver the services that their communities expect,” Cr Fitzpatrick said. “Three applications were partially approved.
Mayor Fitzpatrick said IPART’s assessment of special variation applications involves a thorough evaluation of Office for Local Government guidelines as well as the valuable input received from ratepayers.
“The criteria require councils to demonstrate the need for the additional revenue, provide evidence that the community is aware of the need for and extent of a rate rise, exhibit relevant planning documents, explain Council’s productivity and cost containment actions and plans, and establish that the impact on affected ratepayers is reasonable,” Mayor Fitzpatrick said.
“This rigorous process ensures a delicate balance between addressing community concerns and Council’s genuine need for increased revenue to enhance financial sustainability and service delivery,” he continued.
Should Councillors choose to proceed with the rate increase, it will be effective from July 1 of this year.
“The decision to implement the SRV reflects Council’s recognition of its responsibility to the community and future generations in maintaining financial viability,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
Council CEO, Anthony McMahon, emphasized the need for additional funds to adequately maintain the shire’s infrastructure, including the upkeep of 1,400 kilometres of roads, public swimming pools, parks and playgrounds, public toilets, libraries and the airport.
“Council acknowledges the challenging nature of any rate increase for many community members, but we cannot stress enough the importance of bridging the expanding gap between income and expenses,” Mr McMahon said.
“We continue to actively work on reprioritising work plans, completing grant-funded projects and are committed to further reviewing asset and service priorities in future years to ensure future financial sustainability,” he said.
“Ratepayers are encouraged to assess the impact of the SRV on their respective properties by using the SRV calculator available on the Council’s website.
“We also urge those significantly affected by the rate increase to reach out at the earliest opportunity to discuss possible hardship assistance.”
The Snowy Monaro Council meanwhile had its application only partially approved with IPART allowing a 52.5% increase over four years.