COUNCILLORS fear Orange ratepayers might have to subsidise poorer local government areas if amalgamations go ahead.
At Tuesday night’s Orange City Council meeting, councillors resolved to write a submission to the Independent Local Government Review Panel detailing their concerns about picking up the bill from local government areas who have fallen behind.
Mayor John Davis said Orange residents paid higher rates than other councils and, as a result, the city’s finances were in a good position.
He said some local government areas in NSW were looking at possible 50 per cent rate increases just to catch up on infrastructure backlogs.
“It’s only to catch up on the fact over the years they haven’t put their rates up,” he said.
“We’ve been battered pillar to post in recent years regarding rates.
“We might pay $15 per week more than an outback town, we paid it and the Orange community and Orange council are given the credit for paying our way because we are much more viable.”
If large-scale amalgamations occurred then general funds collected from rates would have to be spent providing services to the communities that would then fall within the Orange local government area boundary - communities councillors feared had large infrastructure backlogs.
Cr Davis said a boundary change would be a positive for Orange because the local government area was only 284 square kilometres. Bathurst, in comparison, is 3820 square kilometres.
“We don’t have that growth ability on the outskirts,” he said.
During the meeting councillor Ron Gander expressed his concerns about picking up the bill for kilometres of dirt roads in surrounding areas.
“It would be an enormous financial and physical burden and I think the state government should throw in a bundle of money,” he said.
Cr Davis agreed and said while amalgamations might lead to cost-saving efficiencies, the money would not be enough to cover the shortfall.
“If the elected members of a rural council have opted not to make the hard decisions to increase rates over a long period of time, those decisions have left a mark on their financial bottom line,” Cr Davis said.
“Expecting an amalgamation cost-saving bonus to cover that black hole is unrealistic, and we’ll be arguing to the panel that the state government should be taking steps in each case to make sure the residents of a well-run council area aren’t penalised.”