OUR SAY: Report card reveals high Orange rates compared to state rivals

THE annual report card on the state’s councils confirms once again that Orange’s rates are among the highest but it also reveals that the city spends substantially more on community services and recreation and culture than the group of similar councils it is compared with.

The comparative report on local governments is a vital snapshot of the city’s performance not just for the council’s senior management but for councillors and residents that both these groups serve.

As in past years, official figures show Orange residential rates are on average over $230 higher than the group average. For business rates the difference is even more stark at almost $2000 higher.

By contrast, rural rates in the Orange area are $200 lower, which if nothing else should prompt councillors and staff to ask whether they have the pricing balance right.

The data also shows that water and sewer charges were over $300 lower in Orange, but the figures do not take account of substantial increases this financial year.

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If residents value community services, sport and cultural services they should put great store in the higher per capita spend of Orange in this area.

If they are concerned about staffing and efficiency the comparative report won’t provide all the answers but it should prompt questions, like why the city has more councillors and staff per capita but fewer kilometres of roads and a much higher population density than the group average.

Part of the answer to the question of what the city spends your rates on can also be seen in population growth, which was double that of the group average for the last five years.

There are many other similarities and differences to consider but one trait common to the entire group is the unrepresentative nature of their councils.

Orange is represented by an overwhelmingly older group of male councillors which is totally out of step with its population, which over half women. Over 40 per cent of the population is under 30 while less than 20 per cent is over 60.

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