Independent tribunal approves full special rate variation

LOCAL roads, community infrastructure and recreational facilities have been given the go ahead to receive vital renewal funding following the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) approval of Richmond Valley Council’s application to increase the general rate above the rate peg.

Council applied to IPART for a special variation to increase its general income above the rate peg of 2.7% for 2019-20. It applied for a four-year special variation to increase its general income by 5.5% per annum for each year from 2019-20 to 2022-23, and to retain this increase in its rate base permanently.

The special variation rates increase will generate an additional $3.9 million above the rate peg increase over four years for vital renewal works on Council’s infrastructure.

Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow has welcomed the tribunal’s decision saying the approved rate rise would allow the Council to improve its financial sustainability, and to fund operating and capital expenditure for infrastructure.

Cr Mustow said while the application to increase the amount ratepayers paid was at times contentious, and Council took seriously every word of support and opposition from the community, having full approval from IPART and its agreement that the impact on ratepayers was reasonable, was satisfying.

“The community can be reassured that all money generated through this rates increase will be used to make our local government area a better place to live,” Cr Mustow said.

Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the additional funds would be used exclusively to enhance Council’s financial sustainability, maintain existing services, infrastructure and facilities, and renewing infrastructure including roads and public amenities.

Mr Macdonald said independent experts had warned the cost of ageing infrastructure would be a much greater burden on the community if Council was unable to spend money on immediate and continuing renewal works.

He said Council was assessed annually by the NSW Auditor General against financial benchmarks set by the NSW Government and must show it was moving to achieve all seven benchmarks.

He said it made good financial sense to invest now rather than delay and spend considerably more in the future.

In its determination which approved a rate increase of 5.5% percent for four years, IPART said Council’s application was assessed against the NSW Government’s published criteria. Submissions received directly from ratepayers, community groups, business groups and ratepayer associations were also considered.

IPART’s determination stated that Richmond Valley Council was able to meet the criteria for approval of the special variation and demonstrated a clear need for the additional revenue, that it had appropriately engaged the community about the proposed rate increases, and that it was taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs. IPART also acknowledged that on average Council’s rates are lower than other Councils on the Northern Rivers and without the proposed increases would remain lower than the average for similar size Councils in NSW.

The full report on Council’s application is available on the IPART website at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au

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