Saturday, 04 April 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Time to have your say on proposed rates hike

Meetings scheduled over the next two weeks will endeavour to explain to Coromandel ratepayers why they are facing an almost 10 percent hike in their annual rates bill in the Thames-Coromandel Annual Plan for the 2020/2021 financial year along with significant increases to other charges.

TCDC staff and elected representatives will front up at the meetings taking place across the Peninsula to answer questions about the cost blowout that has seen expenditure soar above the levels forecasted two years ago in council’s Long Term Plan 2018 - 2028. Instead of the $89,879,000 council anticipated spending in the 2020/2021 financial year, it now believes operating expenditure will hit $101,046,000, an increase of almost $12 million.

Competition for contractors, increased transport and recycling disposal costs, and new government regulations are among the list of reasons being put forward to explain the financial hole. In addition to the rates hikes, fees are set to rise for everything from dog registrations to the hire of cutlery in community halls as TCDC searches for the dollars needed to balance the books.

The cost of dumping rubbish is a clear target area and, while residents will take a hit with a proposed $1.10 (39 per cent) increase in the cost of the standard official blue bags, businesses too will feel the squeeze with the cost to dump general waste rising by more than 30 per cent. A 64 percent rise in charges for dumping green waste at transfer stations with no weighbridge is also on the cards as well as new fees for disposing of whiteware and LPG bottles.

TCDC mayor, Sandra Goudie, said council is aware that the increases will be of concern and encouraged ratepayers to have their say during the consultation process on the Annual Plan for the 2020/2021 financial year, which runs until 14 April.

“We have now exhausted any other means we have had in the past to offset these costs and now need to increase our rating revenue and increase fees and charges in some areas,” she said. “We are concerned at the impact this rates increase may have on ratepayers and are committed to looking at options to reduce expenditure as we, over the next 12 months, develop our next Long Term Plan for 2021 - 2031.

When asked what “other means” Mrs Goudie referred to, Donna Holland, TCDC’s Group Manager Corporate Services, suggested that council’s surpluses in recent years had been down to a poor completion rate for infrastructure projects. “Depreciation and borrowing costs are rated for based on the assumption that [our] capital works programme will be completed by year end,” she said. “In the past, unspent budgeted depreciation and borrowing costs have occurred because we have not completed [our] budgeted capital works programme. The funds that we budgeted to spend on these depreciation and borrowing costs become retained earnings at year end, to be used to fund operational expenditure in the following year.

“The successful delivery of our capital expenditure programmes means that we do not have unspent retained earnings to offset against the following year’s rates because we have spent what we budgeted to spend, delivering improvements to infrastructure (including town centre upgrades and other facilities which are very important aspects of our economic maintenance/development programme) and in particular meeting legislative requirements for drinking water.”

Also up for discussion is the method by which rates are calculated for each property, with a proposal on the table to either increase or decrease the percentage gathered by the uniform annual general charge (UAGC) - the portion of rates that is the same for every property regardless of value. While council has not quantified what percentage increase it is considering in the Annual Plan for the 2020/2021 financial year, its stated long-term goal is to bring the percentage up from 20 to 30 percent.

According to TCDC’s financial strategy, “… council considers that many of [our] services provide the same or similar level of benefit to all ratepayers regardless of a ratepayer’s location in the district, the size of the property and/or value of the property. The best match for funding services that benefit all ratepayers in an equal manner is a uniform rate where all ratepayers pay exactly the same amount. [We] propose to increase the amount of rating collected from the Uniform Annual General Charge and reduce the amount collected from the land valued based rating.”

Over the course of TCDC’s Long Term Plan 2018 - 2028 “…the overall increase in uniform rates will be set to reach the 30 per cent limit.”

The current proposed 9.98 per cent average rates increase equates to $287 per property. However, rates for individual properties will vary depending on property value, location and services received. Council has developed a consultation document and invite people to make a submission, not just on rates but on future services and capital projects and where money could be saved. This can be done at tcdc.govt.nz/annualplan2020.

The remaining consultation meetings are as follows –

Wednesday, 18 March, 4:00pm -6:00pm, Aotearoa Lodge, Whitianga.

Thursday, 19 March 3:30pm - 5:30pm, Whangamata Hall.

Tuesday, 24 March 4:00pm - 6:00pm, Civic Centre, Thames.

Monday, 30 March 2:00pm - 4:00pm St Francis House, Tairua.

You can also request staff and/or elected members to attend a meeting with you or your community group by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Hearings for submitters on the Annual Plan for the 2020/2021 financial year will be held for those wishing to present in person. After considering all feedback, council will need to adopt the Annual Plan before 30 June.

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