Junee Shire Council seeking community feedback on proposed Special Rate Variation
Junee Shire Council is considering applying to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) of 15% for the 2023-24 financial year and 10% for the 2024-25 financial year. The SRV will be in addition to the annual rate cap which is expected to be approximately 2.5% per annum.
The money from the SRV would be used to assure Council’s long term financial sustainability while enabling it to maintain services and a robust capital works program.
The rate increase proposed is in response to significant cost pressures which Council has been facing recently.
In recent years Council has implemented a range of cost savings and will continue to do so, however additional measures need to be considered or further cuts to services will occur.
“If a special rates variation is adopted, it will give Council financial independence and ensure its viability into the future”, said Cr Neil Smith who is the Mayor of Junee Shire.
“Junee Shire offers a very high level of service and without a special rate variation the levels of service will have to decrease so we need to talk to the community about a way forward. Any increase in rates is not a decision Council takes lightly.” the mayor continued.
Counci held a series of public meetings between 13-15 September to provide information and receive feedback on the proposal. For those who were unable to attend a copy of the presentation and a video of the presentation is now available.
“I urge the residents of Junee Shire to provide feedback directly to Council. We are keen to hear residents have their say on this important issue”, said Mayor Smith.
The consultation period ended at midnight on Thursday 27th October and Council encouraged feedback from the community to inform Council before a decision is made on whether to proceed with an application.
Depending on the outcome of the consultation, Council may inform IPART of its intention to apply for an SRV in November 2022 and make an application in February 2023.
Updated 28 October, 2022.
Council held a series of community information sessions as outlined below. A taped recording of one of the sessions is now available to view. Submissions and responses must be received before midnight on Thursday 27 October 2022.
Tues 13 Sept 22
Tues 13 Sept 22
Bethungra Olde School T-House
Tues 13 Sept 22
Wed 14 Sept 22
Wed 14 Sept 22
Wantabadgery McDonald Memorial Hall
Thurs 15 Sept 22
Old Junee Hall
Thurs 15 Sept 22
Illabo Tennis Clubhouse
The rate peg is the maximum percentage amount a council can increase its income from rates. Councils requiring additional revenue can apply to IPART (explained below) to be allowed to levy increases above the rate peg.
The SRV is not applied to service charges such as Sewer, Waste and Stormwater Drainage listed on the rate notice. It is only applied to those items relating to land rate assessment amounts.
If approved, the SRV will only increase the land rate assessment amount by 15% more than you would otherwise pay in 2023/24 and a further 10% in 2024/25.
The background paper provides examples of the SRV average annual change in land rate assessment amounts for each rating category.
Council can only increase total rates by the percentage increase allowed by IPART. Land valuations are separate from the SRV. The valuation of your property only affects your share of the total rates levied by Council. So, if your land value increases by more than the average increase in your rating category (farmland, residential or business), the amount of rates paid by you will increase, if your land value increases by less than the average the amount of rates paid by you will be less.
Council has a financial hardship policy that is available for ratepayers who will suffer genuine financial hardship where they incur a rate increase resulting from the implementation of a special rates variation (SRV). To be eligible, the ratepayer must own the property and occupy it as their principal place of residence. For full details, please refer to the Rates and Charges Hardship Policy attached in the document library within the SRV section of the Council’s website, or phone the council on 02 6924 8100 to obtain a copy.
To make Council financially viable. The cost of services and compliance requirements have increased. It is also anticipated Council will receive less capital grants into future. Therefore, Council requires more rate revenue to maintain services and a reasonable level of capital works.
If the proposed rate increases do not eventuate, a reduction in services and the capital works program would need to occur. For council to be financially sustainable in the long term it must achieve at least a break-even result in its general fund. If Council does not get to this position, it will not be able to undertake the timely renewal of essential infrastructure like roads, sporting fields, playgrounds and community facilities such as the Recreation & Aquatic Centre, the Athenium and the Library.
Council has recently undertaken improvement strategies that provide savings including:
Council will continue to investigate and realise all cost saving opportunities; however, cost savings alone will not be sufficient to make Council financially viable.
Staff are working efficiently and continue reviewing work practices to optimise work practices. It is important to note compliance requirements have become more onerous requiring additional staffing costs.
Funding from other levels of government is not known into the future. In the past Junee has been successful in attracting capital funding, however funding is expected to fall as grants are currently directed towards current disaster areas such as northeastern NSW.
The operating budget for 2023 is $17 million. This includes $3.6 million of depreciation which is used to fund capital works.
IPART are the independent pricing regulator for water, energy, public transport and Local Government. They set the allowable rate cap and approve any Special Rate variations. IPART will either approve or nor approve this SRV.
Junee Shire Council’s rates are relatively competitive when compared to other similar councils as outlined in the SRV background paper. Junee is a high service level council and does not have significant cash reserves as some of its neighbours do.
For example, Junee runs a heated pool and indoor sports centre and maintains lawns and gardens and maintains roads at a high level.