ORANGE’s draft budget is open for public comment and any ratepayer interested in how council spends their $50 a week should take a close look.
With rates now accounting for less than half of the average annual $2600 cost of running a home in Orange, ratepayers have a very real interest in how their hard-earned dollars are spent.
The remainder of the cost to ratepayers, about $1300, comes from water, sewerage and garbage charges, with the big variable from household to household being water fees and charges.
While an independent body set the maximum 2.3 per cent increase for rates, which council has taken in full, councils are free to set the size of their increase for water, sewer and garbage fees.
It is here residents will see increases that far outstrip the consumer price index.
Water and sewerage charges will rise by 10 per cent this year with sewerage fees set to increase by this amount in each of the next three years.
It is a sizeable increase, justified by council as necessary to bring water and sewer funds back into the black, although the sewer fund is expected to be back in the black after two years.
Councillors consider such increases prudent to ensure there is money available to keep infrastructure up to scratch, but so far residents do not know why three consecutive years of big increases are necessary.
On the expenses side council expects to spend less on capital works than it did in the current budget. There is money to finally get the museum underway and council funding to start the long awaited southern feeder road.
This is an important road project, and one which can only grow in significance as traffic increases in the vicinity of the hospital and the aged care facility under construction nearby.
Running a city of this size and with our level of facilities is not cheap and there is nothing so far to indicate that Orange is going to relinquish its place among some of the highest charging local governments in the state.