VINCENT council adopted its new budget on Tuesday with a modest 2.7 per cent rate increase — unless you’re on the minimum.
For the third year running the council gave the bottom rung an almost double-digit hike which mayor Emma Cole says just about brings it into line with surrounding councils.
Ms Cole says the 9.2 per cent increase is likely to be the last big one, and councillors checked to make sure it wasn’t hitting the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
“We…looked at where the seniors and pensioner rebates were coming from, and mostly it wasn’t in the minimum rates,” Ms Cole told the Voice, adding it appeared the majority of long-termers were sitting on properties that had appreciated xover the years and wouldn’t be affected.
The minimum rate hike elicited the sole submission when the budget was put out for comment, with an irate ratepayer saying the council was raising it to make up for the revenue it lost when alfresco dining fees were ditched.
The submission got stuck into the council for letting the low rate sit for years before addressing it with big hikes and called for the council to be more “up front” about the increase.
That’s likely to refer to the fact documents the council has released publicly don’t list the percentage increase, only the minimum payment of $1100—leaving residents to do the math themselves. The staff report says percentages could be included in future years (when, the Voice noted, the big increases will have finished).
Ms Cole says she doesn’t think the council’s trying to conceal the increase, saying they’d been upfront in their discussions about why it needed to be increased, but said she’d look into the wording of an information sheet before it was printed and mailed out.
The mayor says she thinks Vincent’s struck the right balance between financial responsibility and laying the groundwork for some exciting initiatives that will see the city ready for the future.
“I’m really excited about the greening plan, which will see the development of projects such as the North Perth common, which is really the town square,” Ms Cole said.
“It’s still in the planning stage but we are setting up a working group so that next year it will be ready to hit the ground.”
The greening streetscapes program, which got $300,000 in the budget, will also go towards an upgrade at Axford Park, doubling Hyde Park reserve and converting an unsightly sump on Lawler Street into a passive recreation area with native plantings.
“A public open space strategy is also to be developed, which will look at what open space is available and what the future needs of the city are.”
The city’s revenue was hit fairly hard by WA’s economic downturn last year, with development application and building licence fees sliding by about $500,000 and parking revenue dipping. The bean counters in the council reckon that’s worth about 2 per cent of the rates.
Ms Cole says it was a tricky budget to balance, given stuff-ups in previous years that left the council with deficits it wasn’t even aware of, plus demands from the state government to be more rigorous in ensuring enough money was set aside to replace assets.
She says they’re looking to find additional revenue streams, including paying off a loan on the Department of Sport and Recreation building so that instead of having to pay interest it becomes an income stream.
Ms Cole says the increase was slightly above CPI, but she’s sure Vincent’s will come out as one of the lowest-rating councils in Voiceland again.
by STEVE GRANT