Griffith City Council will consult the community over the next four months on a proposal to increase council rates by 10.5 per cent in each of the following financial years – 2024/25, 2025/26 and 2026/27.
While rumours have circulated on social media that rates have already been raised by 30 per cent, councils in NSW do not have the power to unilaterally increase rates by such an amount.
Council charges are regulated by a NSW Government authority called the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which sets the maximum annual amount councils can lift rates, known as a “rate peg” – currently set at 3.7 per cent for the 2023/24 financial year.
Local government bodies are able to apply to IPART for a special rate variation (SRV), in excess of the rate peg, but a number of hurdles have to be cleared first – including a requirement for community consultation and sound justification of the financial and economic reasons for such a rise.
At its ordinary monthly meeting on Tuesday (9 May), council voted in favour of making an “in-principle decision to make application to IPART for a special rate variation (SRV) commencing from 2024/25 and that extensive community consultation be undertaken in this regard prior to further consideration by council”.
“I want our community to understand the decision taken last night is to consult, not to increase by the farcical rates mentioned on untruthful pages. Yes, we need to do something to address the sustainability of our council as 70 per cent of NSW councils have already done in the last ten years but we want to hear form the community, not scare them,” mayor Doug Curran posted on social media on Wednesday.
In his report for councillors’ consideration presented at Tuesday’s meeting, general manager Brett Stonestreet recommended the rate be increased by the standard rate peg of 3.7 per cent this coming financial year and that an in-principle decision be taken to make an application to IPART to increase rates by 10.5 per cent in each of the three years thereafter (3 per cent standard rate peg plus a 7 per cent SPV).
To make his case, Mr Stonestreet argued council’s general fund is forecast to be a deficit of just under $5 million in 2023/24, due in part to inadequate rate pegs by IPART; the rising costs of materials, services and utilities; and increased employee costs. He also said federal and state governments had gradually been shifting cost burdens on to councils, noting an “alternative to this scenario [of raising rates] is to reduce service levels”.
Community members will have the opportunity to provide submissions on the proposal during the public exhibition of the council’s draft budget from Friday, 12 May 2023 to Friday, 9 June 2023, via the council’s website.
Council have stated the following consultation sessions on the matter have been scheduled:
- The Council Cafe stand at the Riverina Field Days on Friday, 12 May 2023 and Saturday, 13 May 2023 will provide an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
- An online information session via Griffith City Council’s Facebook page followed by an interactive question and answer session at 5 pm on Thursday, 18 May 2023.
- A special budget meeting/presentation at the Yoogali Club at 7 pm on Tuesday, 6 June 2023.
Consultation will continue until September, after which time council will meet and decide whether to seek a special rate variation by IPART. The application will need to be submitted by January 2024 and IPART will decide on whether to accept or reject the application by May 2024.
Neighbouring Leeton Shire Council considered making an application for a special rate variation to IPART late last year – a proposal that would have raised rates by 52 per cent over just two years. But following a passionate seven-week community campaign against the proposal, the council opted not to make the application.
Updates and further information on the Griffith City Council proposed rate increase can be found on its Facebook page.