Council's argument in the higher rates debate: 'We’re offering a different level of service'

VALUE FOR MONEY: Orange City Council says its targeted services provide value for money for ratepayers. Pictured are Courallie Park Child Development Centre's Katrina Henderson-Matuschka with kids from the Bunyip Room. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0704childcare2

VALUE FOR MONEY: Orange City Council says its targeted services provide value for money for ratepayers. Pictured are Courallie Park Child Development Centre's Katrina Henderson-Matuschka with kids from the Bunyip Room. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0704childcare2

DESPITE state figures identifying Orange’s higher rates compared to other councils of its type, Orange City Council says residents get better value for money than they think.

The Comparative Information on NSW Local Government report, released on Monday, said the council had higher residential and business rates and more staff than the average for similar councils across the state, yet it featured a lower number of public facilities including pools, libraries, community halls and public space.

At the same time, residential and business rates, and the domestic waste management charge, exceeded the group average. 

The report compared Orange to councils like Bathurst, Dubbo, Lithgow and Mid-Western Regional councils.

However, corporate and commercial services director Kathy Woolley said the comparisons between Orange and other councils in its group were not necessarily the most accurate.

She said Orange identified more with Evocities such as Armidale, Albury, Bathurst, Dubbo, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.

“They’re more like us, they’re cities that have a regional aspect,” she said.

“If you look at the Evocities councils, us, Dubbo and Bathurst have about the same [staffing numbers] and we’re at the lower end of the seven, so we’re not overstaffed at all.

“Huge numbers of people come into Orange every day for work, out of Blayney and Cabonne in particular, so we’re not just servicing the people that live in Orange, we’re servicing a broader range. They’re using road facilities and library facilities and pool facilities because they work here.” 

Ms Woolley said library staff covered seven libraries in multiple local government areas, while the pool had become a year-round facility and the Orange Regional Airport was expanding.

“You’ve got to employ people to run these things. We’re offering a different level of service,” she said.

With a five-year population change of 9 per cent, including higher levels of people aged 19 or younger and between 20 and 59, Ms Woolley said services reflected community need.

“In our case, we’ve got lots of childcare service needs, so that’s why we run three childcare services,” she said.

Ms Woolley said North Orange had experienced large amounts of growth and the future challenge would be planning for expansion into Shiralee.

While farmland rates were lower than the group average, Ms Woolley said the council had fewer rural assets to maintain, with the bulk of the city comprised of residents and businesses.

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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