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Essential Services Commission approves Hindmarsh’s rate cap variation

Article Category  Dimboola Courier > Current News
Date Published  Monday, July 31 2017

Essential Services Commission approves Hindmarsh’s rate cap variation
The Essential Services Commission has approved Hindmarsh Shire Council’s application for a rate cap variation.

The Hindmarsh Shire Council applied for the ability to apply an additional 2% over and above the State Government’s 2% rate cap for 2017/18.

The Essential Services Commission published its decision on Monday 31st July.
“We are satisfied that the application shows a long-term funding need, and that Hindmarsh needs the higher cap to help manage assets and deliver services in the long-term interests of ratepayers and the community.

In 2017-18, Hindmarsh will use the extra revenue to upgrade road assets. We are satisfied that the application shows a need to invest in road assets. This is supported by the council’s long-term financial planning and community engagement”. - Essential Services Commission, 31st July 2017

When the State Government introduced the Fair Go Rates System in December 2015 it provided a process for councils to apply to the Essential Services Commission for an increase in the rate cap to be granted if the Commission determines it is justified.

Hindmarsh Shire Council made the decision in May 2017 to proceed with an application to the Essential Services Commission for a higher rate cap of 4 per cent for 2017/18 and the Commission has granted the increase.

Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor Debra Nelson said that Council undertook community consultations prior to making the application.

“Council undertook a total of eight community consultations across the Shire to discuss the issue at length and receive feedback on the proposed rate cap variation application and what it meant in real terms for our shire.

“The decision to apply for a rate cap variation was not made lightly. Council is very mindful of our community’s capacity to pay and recognises that most people don’t enjoy paying rates, which are essentially a tax, but the reality is that our revenue has been greatly reduced by reductions in State and Federal funding,” she said.

“Council’s Long Term Financial Plan had originally been prepared allowing for a five percent increase in rates for 2017/18 and the following two years to maintain service levels and renewal of aging infrastructure.

“The Victorian Auditor General recognised that Rural Shire Councils will not be able to remain sustainable into the medium and distant future without sourcing extra revenue. While Council has examined its business operations and implemented a range of initiatives to cut costs and continues to lobby for extra funding we will inevitably be at a disadvantage because of our geographical challenges,” she said.

“Hindmarsh Shire covers 7500 square kilometres, has over 3000 kilometres of roads and six bridges to maintain and the loss of a million dollars a year from the Country Roads and Bridges program has had a detrimental effect on maintaining our road networks which are so important to our agriculture businesses and wider community.”
“The additional rate revenue will be used to maintain the road network.” - Debra Nelson, Hindmarsh Shire Mayor

The Hindmarsh Shire Council draft budget was approved at the last council meeting and has been released for public consultation. Council invites written submissions from the public which will be considered before the budget is adopted on 23 August 2017.

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