Hey big spenders, think of your own pockets in cash splash
By Ben Bell
AS MANY of you can probably attest, any envelope brandishing the Shire of Toodyay logo during the month of September is unlikely to contain good news for the recipient.Read more
It was therefore with a fair degree of resignation that I opened such an envelope a week or two ago.
Sure enough, the envelope contained the inevitable rates notice from the shire for my family home in Toodyay.
Now I freely accept that no one likes to pay rates, taxes or make any other payment to any level of government because, let’s face it, governments have a reputation of wasting money at times on apparently frivolous things.
The amount of pork-barrelling that occurs in the lead up to a State or Federal election or the amount of white elephant projects constructed over the years by all tiers of government only serves to reinforce the community’s scepticism.
Failed legal actions
The Shire of Toodyay is, therefore, not alone when in the eyes of some in the community it squandered almost $800,000 of ratepayer’s money in lawyers’ costs over the last few years pursuing failed legal actions.
The most recent of these was only last month when having spent some $36,500 on legal fees, the shire’s case was unceremoniously thrown out of court.
So how does this perceived waste of public money occur?
I suspect it is because governments forget that it is not their money that they are spending.
Take the Shire of Toodyay’s own Long Term Financial Plan – being the shire administration’s 10-year financial forecast.
50 new vehicles
This was approved by most of the council a month or so ago and indicates that the shire expects to purchase 50 new cars and utes over the coming decade.
Fifty new vehicles?
Yes – most are replacements of the existing fleet but still, 50 new car purchases over a 10-year period does seem a lot for a shire the size of Toodyay.
And to pay for this and other costs, the shire expects your rates will be 30 per cent higher after 10 years than what you are paying today – ouch.
May I propose one simple test, a question, really, that should be applied whenever any government body such as the shire thinks about making a purchase: If I had to pay for this out of my own pocket, would I still go through with it?
For example, how often does a government representative or executive replace their own personal cars?
I bet you it’s nowhere near as frequently as they replace their corporate car.
Commute or book hotel?
Similarly, would this same person fork out their own cash on accommodation when attending a multi-day seminar or training course in Perth, or would they commute each day?
I suspect we all know the answer to that question.
As I said, I appreciate that rates are a necessary evil but, as my neighbour asked me over the weekend, if rates are driven by property values, why did they pay more in rates this year then someone living in Mosman Park?
Have Toodyay’s property prices increased by that much?
Yes, that last question was asked a little tongue-in-cheek.
However, the point remains that shire rate rises and expenditure should always be approached judiciously, and the community is currently debating whether this is indeed being practised in Toodyay.
In the red
Oddly, despite its history of hiking rates – including the most recent increase – in excess of CPI, the shire expects its accounts to be in the red within the next six years.
I find it more than a little alarming that the shire CEO and senior executives are deliberately aiming to do this in 2023, and that most of the council knowingly approved it.
How can the council approve a Long Term Financial Plan that clearly shows that the shire will not be able to pay its bills in a given year and will, according to the plan, be effectively operating in the red in year six of a 10+-year plan?
This is a puzzle to many, but I digress.
It does prove my point though that the Shire of Toodyay does not have a revenue problem because it expects its rates revenue to more than keep pace with inflation via +2.5 per cent annual rates increases.
However, it has an ever-expanding spending problem which will likely place the shire in a very precarious financial position in coming years.
Hence, the plea to the shire and council from many people across our community – please think before you spend ratepayers’ money.
If you wouldn’t pay for something if the money had to come out of your own pocket, you probably shouldn’t expect the community to pay for it out of their rates.