9 May 2017

Special Rate Variation
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Decision

 IPART have announced its determination of Council’s Special Rate Variation application and decided to allow the special variation, in part, on a one year temporary basis.  This allows Council to increase its general rate income by 13.2% in 2017/18.  “The decision allows Council to continue to execute its Delivery Program in 2017/18 while updating its Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) documentation and reapplying to IPART in future years if it wishes for a rate increase to be permanently incorporated in its general income base”.
 
IPART stated, “The Council did not update its IP&R documents to include the full Special Rate Variation increase sought prior to applying to IPART.  Therefore, we have not approved a permanent increase in general income.  However, the Council did demonstrate a clear need for additional revenue to ensure its financial sustainability and to fund increased infrastructure maintenance and renewal”.
 
The approval is subject to conditions including:
·       The additional income is used for the purposes of improving financial sustainability, funding capital expenditure, reducing the infrastructure backlog and providing the necessary fire safety and road infrastructure for Verons Estate.

 
If Council decides to adopt the full amount determined by IPART, 67% of ratepayers will pay less than $150 per annum increase in their rates.
 
Mayor Amanda Findley said she was pleased that IPART had made a positive determination but disappointed that Council will have another step of reapplying for future years.
 
“IPART have clearly vindicated Council’s decision and agrees we have justification for seeking the rate increase.  They agree more funds are necessary to maintain and renew the community assets.” Mayor Findley said.
 
“Whilst IPART said the impact of the proposed rises on ratepayers is significant, particularly for the Verons Estate landowners, it also said the impact is reasonable given Council’s existing rate levels, its history of special variations, the purpose of the special variation and indicators of the community’s capacity to pay,” Mayor Findley said.
 Council’s draft Delivery Program, Operational Plan, Budget and Fees and Charges for 2017/18 is currently on public exhibition.
 
The additional rate revenue of $7.1m is earmarked to improve Council’s financial sustainability ($1.8M) and for additional maintenance and asset renewals:
·       for additional maintenance on roads ($600,000), parks ($200,000) and buildings ($200,000); and
 
Mayor Findley said, “These were the priorities the community and CCBs had consistently told us”.
 
However Mayor Findley also stated, “The benefits of the rate increase for one year will be lost if it is not locked in for future years and I will be supporting a further application as indicated by IPART.  However, that’s a decision for later in the year”.
 
“In the meantime, Council has further Public Information meetings on Monday, 15 May at Tomerong and Wednesday, 24 May at Ulladulla.  Council will consider any public submissions in June before adopting the final budget and rating for 2017/18,” the Mayor said.