18 July 2023

Griffith Business Chamber proposes alternatives to three years of council rate hikes

| Oliver Jacques
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Griffith Business Chamber president John Nikolic is concerned about the size of the proposed rate rise. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The peak body representing businesses in Griffith has asked the local council to consider alternatives to a proposed massive rate hike of 35 per cent over the next three years, such as paid parking at the airport and raising the rent for leases and licences for council-owned land.

Griffith City Council has been trying to convince the community of the need for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) – an increase over the next three years much higher than what’s normally allowed. It is seeking support for a proposal to increase rates by 10.5 per cent in each of the following financial years: 2024/25, 2025/26 and 2026/27.

In a letter to Mayor Doug Curran, the Griffith Business Chamber expressed its understanding of the council’s precarious financial predicament, but warned that such a high rate increase “has the potential to diminish economic activity at a time of reduced business confidence”.

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According to a council fact sheet, the average rate for a business would rise from $2968 to $4005 by 2025/26. The average rate for a household would climb from $1106 to $1492 over the same period.

“In the circumstances, the chamber considers that council should consider revenue-raising alternatives, as well as ways to reduce operational costs, in order to reduce the magnitude of the proposed SRV,” chamber president John Nikolic said.

“Most businesses are now thinking about ways to reduce operational costs. Council can do the same – there are significant opportunities to install solar panels on government-owned buildings, car parks etc.”

The chamber also suggested increasing rent for leases and licences for the use of council and Crown land to commercial rates, and introducing long-stay paid parking at Griffith City Airport. At present, vehicles can park at the airport free for as long as necessary.

two women speaking at community group meeting

Councillor Jenny Ellis talks with resident Sue Fordham at a Community Opinion Group meeting in February. More chances to speak with councillors will be occurring throughout July and August. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Justifying the need for an SRV, general manager Brett Stonestreet has argued the council’s general fund is forecast to show a deficit of just under $5 million in 2023/24, due in part to the rising costs of materials, services and utilities, and increased employee costs. He also said the State Government had gradually been shifting cost burdens onto local government.

Mr Nikolic acknowledged that the council was ”on a hiding to nothing” and being asked to do more with less due to factors beyond its control. But he said he’d prefer one big increase to three.

“If cost-cutting and revenue-raising measures are planned for and implemented, the chamber considers that a single, significantly lower SRV would be feasible, which would be less likely to negatively impact business confidence. A single annual increase [which the council has also modelled] is also preferable, as the proposed SRV over three years would compound and prolong the increase in rates, potentially diminishing or delaying any rebound in business confidence.”

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To learn more about the proposed SRV and express an opinion, residents can attend one of the following upcoming meetings:

Thursday, 20 July, 10 am-noon: Kooyoo Street Kiosk – Council Cafe.

Tuesday, 1 August, 7 pm: Hanwood Catholic Club – Community Opinion Group (COG) meeting.

Friday, 4 August, 10 am-noon: Griffith Central – Council Cafe.

Consultation will continue until September, after which time the council will meet and decide whether to apply for an SRV from the NSW Government body that determines council rates – the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). The application will need to be submitted by January 2024 and IPART will decide on whether to accept or reject the proposed rates hikes by May 2024.

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