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Wednesday
Feb022011

Rate Increase of 2.1% Signaled

On Thursday, Council will adopt the 2.1% average rate increase that was thrashed out behind closed doors at the 3 December 2010 Workshop.This is lower that that forecast in the 2009-19 LTCCP - Hooray!

Unfortunately, the cheers will need to be muted owing to the device that councillors plan to adopt to increase borrowing by 1.8% beyond TCDC's long standing and well justified borrowing limit of 150% of revenue. Please note my earlier posting on Councillor McLean's Vision that outlined what he proposed in this regard. Do not for one moment believe that this little breach ($1.5m) will be the end of it.

Councillor McLean (and our own Thames Councillors) have enough new projects up their sleeves to breech the new 151.8% limit over and over. Don't imagine for a moment that Councillor McLean for one,  will let these needs go wanting while he is at his most persuasive.

"Money is cheap - let's spend it". That seems to be mantra, so hold on to your hats while generational transfer takes on a whole new momentum in this district. It is yet to be seen whether rate-payers will remain as sanguine when they realise the sleight of hand involved in reducing rates below the rate of inflation - even further below the local government rate that is 1 - 2% above the national rate. 

I have downloaded the Draft Annual Plan (hard copies are only available to such organisations such as  Residents and Rate-payers Associations, and Federated Farmers), and find it totally opaque when endeavouring to discover what works and services have been cut to achieve the lower proposed rate.

The Paper (2.1) to be presented to Council contains the following useful information:

At the Council and Community Board Annual Plan workshop held 3 December 2010,elected members were given the proposed budgets for the 2011/2012 financial year. This workshop provided an opportunity to consider and signal the appropriateness of these budgets, and whether any changes should be made, i.e. inclusions and exclusions not already considered in those budgets. Staff received this guidance and made the relevant changes following that workshop and prepared the draft Annual Plan (see Attachment A).

It would have been helpful in the interests of transparency if staff had seen fit to include a list of the "inclusions and exclusions" that were implemented in arriving at the Draft as presented. It is not appropriate that rate-payers should have to go though a line by line comparison in order to determine what was decided at that closed door "Workshop" to change what had already been publicly consulted, audited and adopted.

I trust that at least one member will challenge staff in this regard at the meeting, but I am not holding my breath. In the meantime I will continue to plough through the 120 odd pages of the Draft in order to be able to provide some information more useful than that provided in the Summary.

For starters, here is the justification for the planned local ward rate increase for Thames taken from the Draft Summary:

An additional $100,000is proposed to develop a concept plan for local sporting facilities.

An additional $50,000 is proposed for planning to develop Thames as a tourism destination.

The postponed Thames Urban Water Treatment upgrade will now happen in 2011/2012.

The roading connection from Kopu to the new state highway has been postponed until 2012/2013.

Thames Average local ward rate c/f 2010/11: +8.99%

Coromandel Increase: +2.75%

Mercury bay Increase: +7.49%

Tairua- Pauanui Increase: +3.46%

Whangamata Increase: +5.04%

Note that these are just the increases to the relatively small local ward components that must be added to the District average increase (2.1%) Find out how you are effected overall by going to the rate calculator in the TCDC Website (Probably not up and running until after the 3 February meeting)

I trust that Thames rate-payers will be ecstatic that their increase exceeds all others, and appears to mainly be brought about by the need for a "Concept Plan for Sports Facilities" at $100,000, which of course is the sop to the Zoom Zone proponents by any other name. Just wait until the final cost of this and other sports proposals are are brought to account in following years triggering an amendment to the LTCCP. No mention is made of the $120,000 already invested in concept and business plans for Zoom Zone that has been provided through the Thames Community Board over the last three years. 

In the meantime, if you are concerned about the increase, submissions open from 17 February to 18 March, and Hearings are on 9 - 10 May. Put the dates in your diary now, and get ready to prepare a submission. Remember that written submissions carry almost no weight unless delivered personally, and that duplicated submissions carry even less.   


 

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Reader Comments (2)

Help us out here Bill.
What should concerned ratepayers do about this? Write, email, ring, letters to the editor? What?

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

I just don't know Russell - I think what they are doing is perfectly legal - see today's post on the way in which the meetings are being manipulated to keep debate out of the public eye. It is apparently the way Tregidga runs the show over at Hauraki, so our Mayor has apparently picked up a few pointers.
As for what you can do - the public hearings in May are really the only opportunity. Other than that, a close watch needs to be maintained to ensure that they stay within the LGA, and so far, that appears to be the case, but there is no reason why the procedures should not be queried through the Department (Internal Affairs) who I imagine would take a dim view of our Mayor's cunning little ploy - perhaps a letter in that direction may be in order. I may just wait until things settle down and then take it up with the Office of the Auditor General out of interest simply because I can't believe that it is entirely kosher. In the meantime, a letter to the HH may be in order - I don't think that I am flavour of the month there following some of my comments about the media, so why don't you pick up the batten.
By the way, Leach's response to Strat Peter's expressed concern today was that the 150% had been breached in the past - the difference is that it was only ever done in an emergency, and quickly restored - it was never planned as in the current situation - quite different, and is the beginning I suspect of a campaign to get it up to 200% in the first instance, or to remove internal borrowing from the equation.

February 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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