POLL: Residents slugged with rate increase as council makes 'hard decisions'

THE average ratepayer will pay Orange City Council $2614.62 next financial year, $127.92 more than this year, when sewer and water charges increase by 10 per cent, waste fees by three per cent, and general rates by the 2.3 per cent rate-pegging limit.

Councillors agreed to call for public comment on the increased fees and charges set out in council’s budget as part of its draft delivery/operational plan, at Tuesday night’s meeting after no discussion.

The council’s projected income for 2014/15 is $106.3 million with an additional $31.4 million from other funds including loans, down on the $128 million income of 2013/14.

Council plans to spend $82.8 million on day-to-day operational expenses, but only $54.9 million on capital works - down on the $79 million spent in 2013/14.

Last year, sewer rates increased by 10 per cent, but councillors abandoned plans for a 10 per cent increase to water and instead settled on a five per cent increase.

This year’s budget proposes 10 per cent increases for both to bring the water and sewer funds “back into the black”, according to Orange mayor John Davis, despite the water fund predicted to have a $160,391 surplus in 2014/15 after a $317,409 deficit in 2013/14.

The sewer fund will have a $369,650 deficit in 2014/15 with the council proposing to bring it back to surplus by 2015/16 with increases of 10 per cent each year for 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17.

Cr Davis defended the increases saying it was important the council was economically sustainable and lived within its means.

“An analysis by the NSW government’s treasury department found Orange City Council was in good financial shape, but we have to work hard to keep that rating, particularly in the area of water and sewer,” he said. 

“Some country councils have struggled to find the resources to keep their network of water and sewer pipes maintained in good shape, but this is crucial infrastructure and taking these hard decisions means the Orange community will be putting its water and sewer funds back in the black.” 

OUR SAY: BUDGET REVEALS NO RELIEF IN SIGHT AFTER THREE YEARS OF RATES INCREASES

Waste fees will increase by three per cent to $346.54 for each household and the council’s decision to adopt the full 2.3 per cent rate-pegging limit set down by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for all NSW councils will increase the average residential rate by $28.84 in 2014/15.

Corporate and commercial services director Kathy Woolley said the majority of the council’s fees and charges had increased by three per cent for 2014/15, in a report to council.

The exceptions were for services with cost increases above 3 per cent, fees covered by a statutory or legislative requirements, or fees that now had GST applied.

The draft budget will go on-show for public comment for 28 days before it comes back to a council meeting in May.

It can be viewed online at www.orange.nsw.gov.au/budget or a hard copy is available at the Civic Centre.

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