1. Grants from State and Federal governments have been reduced by $3 Million, but the community still requires and expects the same level of service.
2. Costs incurred by the local council such as labour and materials typically go up at a rate higher than the consumer price index. For example, electricity and water costs are rising by up to 6%, and in the next year electricity cost for street lighting will go up by 36%.
3. Assets are wearing out quicker than we can afford to replace them.
4. As part of the City of Greater Geraldton's #changescgg program, more than 70 community members were chosen randomly to spend up to 8 hours every Saturday for 8 weeks reviewing the Council's services and capital works program. They provided council with what services they felt were important to keep, what should be cut, and what needs to be added. These recommendations are in part what formed the recommended rate increase to council.
5. The "CGG Ratepayers Demand Change" group (CGGRDC), who have been very vocally fighting any rate rises, only got 3 members elected at the last council election; Simon Keemink, Shane Van Styn and David Caudwell. Keemink and Caudwell voted against tonight's rise, Van Styn voted for it, but noted while he strongly opposed rate rises in principle at this point, he felt the city had committed to some very large projects such as Verita Rd and the renovation of the old Railway building, and pulling the pin on projects like that would have too strong of a negative effect on the town. (Laurie Graham, who is also a new councillor, winning at the last election, was the only other councillor to vote against the rise).
Our brief take on the new budget and rate rise:
Since the 27% rise two years ago, mentioning the word "rates" in Geraldton is like mentioning Hitler. It causes the dopamine levels in any rate-paying Geraldonite to drop to dangerously low levels, which unfortunately now makes the topic difficult to discuss rationally.
But considering when the local council so much as HINTS at shutting down a heated pool for a few months, or relocating a pony club so they can better utilise valuable land, or if the roadside collection takes 5 seconds longer than expected; there is public outrage, it remains rather clear that Geraldton residents still expect a certain level of services from their local government.
While exactly what services should be kept, culled or added is worth debating, it's still unclear what the CGGRDC would like to see cut to achieve their demands of a drastically reduced expenditure.
Based on what members of the public said they wanted during the community consultation period, the city actually put a 5.2% rate increase proposal to councillors to consider.
To get that even lower, down to 4.3% for residential premises, and 3.6% for non-residential, required more axing.
According to information provided the city, the increase in rates for an average residential property will be $1.27 per week.
Keep in mind as well, two years ago when there was the 27% increase, all the forward estimates required increases following that for the next decade of another 7.2% per annum.
Coupled with last year's modest increase of 2.9%, the City of Greater Geraldton has certainly reigned in its spending, though CEO Ken Diehm says he's going to continue looking at ways to improve efficiencies.
We've published our fair share of articles criticising certain local government decisions, but to be fair, they're damned if they rase rates and damned if they cut services ( or don't fix playground equipment etc etc). But services cost money.
Mayor Ian Carpenter pointed out tonight he wasn't impressed hearing state government MP's publicly opine that "local councils shouldn't raise rates" while at the same time they cut funding to local governments and raise electricity and water costs to them.
It's a good point too.
Robbing local government's pockets to make the state or federal budget look good doesn't help anyone, it just passes the problem down the line.
See our follow up article: Where is my rates money being spent?