Rates pain on the way

DERWENT Valley ratepayers must brace for an 18 per cent rate increase over the next two financial years in what Council says amounts to pain now, but long-term financial security. Last Thursday Council agreed to the increase of 9 per cent each year for two years. Council also foreshadowed cuts to services.

A joint message from the Mayor Michelle Dracoulis and General Manager Dean Griggs said: “We have experienced extreme economic, environmental and political events at a global and local level. These events have affected us financially and emotionally but we have come through together and we as your Council are now prepared to deliver a budget that will lead to financial stability and help galvanize our community in the face of future events.

“There is a need to balance our financial situation while taking into account new and ageing infrastructure, the need for improvement and maintenance of community assets and the need to mitigate and respond to the impacts of weather events and Covid-19. “These considerations highlight the need for Derwent Valley Council to rise and meet standards as a connected, accountable, sustainable and ethical organisation.’’

Council said it would conduct a review of the services it delivered. “It is therefore a priority that Council find other means by which to become financially sustainable and extract itself from deficit,’’ they said. “We must be financially prudent and ensure that the organisation works within its means throughout the 2022/2023 financial year and beyond. “This may result in a decrease in some existing services and potentially cease others to redirect resources following the review.’’

As part of its Annual Plan, Council will reign in capital works spending and focus on projects funded through state and federal grants and election commitments. The Mayor and General Manager said due to increasing costs of building materials, Council had on several occasions needed to use cash reserves to complete projects.

Last year’s storm damage and a need to rectify a recently discovered historical underpayment to childcare staff had impacted the Council’s budget by more than $1 million. “Council has a small ratepayer base and generates an average of $6.5 million in general rates,’’ they said. “The unexpected loss of $1 million has had a profound impact on Council’s cash position, and recovery from these events is reliant on the Derwent Valley Council delivering a well-informed and realistic budget plan.’’

Councillors Phillip Bingley, Matt Hill and Luke Browning voted against the plan. Councillor Bingley argued the review of services should take place first. He said cost of living pressures were biting and the rates increase would only make things harder.

Councillor Julie Triffitt supported the motion saying: “It is a sad state of affairs, but we need to reset our long term finances.”

Over the next four years the following projects will be funded through government grants:
• The first stage of the High Street redevelopment;
• Upgrades to Saddle Road and Giddy Avenue;
• Sporting facilities at Tynwald Park;
• New amenities for the Westerway Community Hall;
• New bus shelter for Maydena; new carparks and subdivision for Willow Court;
• Repairs to Glen Dhu Road in light of flooding events;
• Improvements to the New Norfolk Esplanade.

The rate increase includes the State Government’s newly introduced tip tax of $23.89 per rateable property is included.