INVERCARGILL’S deputy mayor wants his council to explore alternative ways to cope with its increasing costs rather than “unfairly” throwing the burden on to ratepayers.
The Invercargill City Council (ICC) had forecast a rates increase of 4% for the second year of its long-term plan, but changes to its capital programme prompted it to propose a rise of 7.78% for the next financial year.
During an extraordinary meeting of the performance, policy and partnerships committee on Tuesday, councillors endorsed the annual plan consultation document for 2022-23.
After the meeting, deputy mayor Nobby Clark pleaded for the community to have their say about the matter now, rather than later.
As he had been the Invercargill ratepayer group chairman for many years, he understood many people within the community could struggle with any increase – especially in a time where people were dealing with a pandemic.
“I accept that for our income to match our forecast expenditure, we need to expand our revenue by 7.78%. I don’t have problems with that.
“But I have a problem that nowhere in the document council said to its ratepayers that we’ve tried to source that extra 3.78%, that we’ve tried different ways to fund that… but, at the end of the day, we can’t find another additional revenue other than go with a rates increase.”
He had no problems if the community agrees with the increase, but he was worried many potentially would only realise the increase after the time in which any action could have been made. Cr Clark believed there were other opportunities to be explored to cope with these extra costs which included a review of staffing costs, using reserves and selling some of the council’s properties.
People had approached him and he had a feeling many in the community were struggling financially.
“There is inflation, Covid-19 – we shouldn’t be adding to this problem. Even when you look in isolation it seems a small amount but it is not small when put alongside everything else.”
ICC chief executive Clare Hadley said she understood this view and was also uncomfortable about that.
“However, there is also a need for today’s ratepayer to meet today’s costs and some alternatives, such as an unbalanced budget, actually move costs to future years.”
ICC proposed this rates increase because it found it necessary to enable it to carry on with important projects.
Mrs Hadley guaranteed officers had gone through the budget and said they tried to be realistic about the scenario.
“It is with a sense of disappointment that we find ourselves needing to say to council that this is the increase we need.”
During the meeting on Tuesday, Mrs Hadley said officers could make some suggestions to elected members if the majority of the community were opposed to the increase.
However, it was up to councillors to make those ”difficult” decisions, she said.
The annual plan will go out for consultation tomorrow. Submissions close on April 29.