Council rejects eight per cent rate cut
A CALL to cut rates by eight per cent without reducing services has been rejected by the Toodyay Shire Council.
Councillors voted 4-2 (Cr Judy Dow absent) last month to reject a notice of motion submitted by Cr Ben Bell (pictured).
Cr Bell said ratepayers were doing it tough* after recent “eye-watering” rates hikes of up to 10 per cent.
Although the shire was collecting $1.7 million more in rates each year than it did in 2013, the amount of money spent on providing services to the Toodyay community had not changed since 2013.
However, shire wages had increased by $1.2 million (140 per cent) since 2013, councillors’ fees had doubled and spending on the shire’s proposed new $23 million sport and recreation centre “swallows over $1.5 million – or 25 per cent of the shire’s rates revenue – each year”.Read more
“In fact since 2013, the development of the proposed recreation reserve has cost ratepayers a very surprising $5.5 million,” Cr Bell said.
“Remember, the total cost of the aquatic centre was estimated to be only $6 million.”
Holding off spending a proposed further $1.8 million on earthworks this coming year would enable the shire to cut rates by 30 per cent “given that it still remains unclear – at least to me – how the shire intends to fund this ambitious project”.
Cr Bell said at least $450,000 a year could be saved elsewhere in the shire budget by eliminating “systemic” cost overruns of up to 100 per cent on shire roadworks.
Minimising “commonplace” roadworks overspends would fund an eight per cent rates cut this year “without at all affecting shire services, including maintaining the same level of roadworks completed by the shire each year”, Cr Bell said.
A third and “perhaps easiest way” to fund an eight per cent rates cut was to replace shire-owned vehicles after five years – as done in Wagin– instead of every four years, as occurs in Toodyay.
“This alone will save $700,000 in just this coming year alone,” Cr Bell said.
“Implement all three of these policies and rates could easily be cut by 50 per cent.
“It’s an opportunity for every councillor to show they acknowledge that there are people within our community who may be doing it tough and would greatly appreciate the council doing whatever it can to help them right now.
“Let’s grasp this one chance to ease the financial burden on ratepayers by approving this motion to reduce rates without impacting the quality of services provided by the shire to the Toodyay community.”
Chitty says rates cut ‘irresponsible’
Cr Bell’s motion to cut shire rates by eight per cent was seconded by Cr Rob Welburn, a former community bank director who chairs the council’s powerful audit committee.
He said Cr Bell had “brought up some really good things but an eight per cent rates cut meant there would be no rec centre” – a claim Cr Bell later disputed.
“I don’t support an eight per cent rates cut but I will be getting out the scalpel to see where we can cut costs in this year’s budget and I hope to see what Cr Bell has suggested,” Cr Welburn said.
Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty said that based on talking to others in local government she believed a rates cut would be “irresponsible”. “I hope we get a grant and I’m sure we will get a rec centre,” she said.
“However, our economic development plan gets thrown out the window with an eight per cent rates cut.
“I know we can do things better and I want Toodyay to grow bigger and better, but reducing rates will put us in a tailspin.”
Cr Eric Twine said Cr Bell’s ideas were worth looking at.
“I think an eight per cent reduction wouldn’t be a good idea but I agree we need to look at savings,” Cr Twine said.
“Cr Bell has probably done a lot of budgets for his company (Australian Mines Ltd) but he has never done a shire budget.”
Cr Paula Greenway said “I don’t think we will move forward with an eight per cent rates cut”.
Shire President Brian Rayner did not speak during the debate.
Cr Bell’s motion was lost 4-2, with only he and Cr Welburn voting in favour, and Crs Rayner, Chitty, Twine and Greenway against.