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Rate Increase Excites Some Interest

Rate increases (see below) usually excite considerable interest - particularly from those on fixed incomes, but I thought ours (4.55%) seems to have slipped though with barely a yawn - except at least from Russell Skeet who took up the cudgels yesterday, and demanded a response from our representatives.

Diane Connors responded in the following manner, and she must get credit for 'fronting' even if she is somewhat unconvincing about the reasons for the increase, and gives us concern about future increases at the same time. Note that she does not answer Russell's questioning of the need for such a substantial increase in borrowing.

As for her reference back to the 2007/2010 by way of comparison, all I can say is that that ancient history in different circumstances hardly justifies current increases. Get over it, Diane - you are beginning to sound like Leach!

Here is her response to Russell:

"Thanks for showing an interest in the workings of local government.   Yes, Bill Barclay has correctly reported the current forecasted rates increase for Thames in the 2017-18 year, as presented at yesterday's Council meeting.

To fully answer the question "why is the rates increase so high?' involves sitting down and going through our budget line by line with you.  Unfortunately I just don't have the time for that at this point. 

In simple terms the rates are increasing because Thames Community Board has been working hard to provide the services, facilities and amenities that our community has asked for.
I strongly believe that if all ratepayers wanted was a water supply, roading, stormwater, waste water and rubbish collection - then we wouldn't need elected representatives.  We have a team of highly qualified engineers and managers who could oversee the provision of the these services.
However, public consultation processes and satisfaction surveys constantly confirm that the people who live, work and own property/businesses in our area want more than that.

I am very proud of the things that the Thames Community Board has been working on, in response to our community (Thames Promotions Projects, Skatepark, Indoor Sports Facilities, the 150th commemorations, supporting local events and heritage).   Just take a look around and talk to people.  I am hearing lots of positive comments about how our town is growing in liveability status and also as a visitor destination.

All these things come at a price - however I can assure you that the Thames Community Board members are keeping a close eye on things.  We understand that rates need to be affordable and we are mindful of this is all our decision making.

The external debt will obviously rise with the number of larger capital projects that are planned for any year.  This is district wide of course.  I can tell you that Thames' ageing underground infrastruture is due to be replaced sometime soon and assessment of their condition has been carried out to ensure we are well informed about when this work needs to be scheduled.  These big projects can not just be added to the ratepayers bill in the year that the costs falls.  That would be totally unaffordtable and goes against the principle of sharing the costs of assets over the life of the asset and those you will receive the benefit of them (intergenerational).  

In conclusion, yes the 2017-18 Thames rate is increasing.  But lets balance that with what we are receiving in return for that investment in our community. 

We should also note that we consult on these proposed projects, levels of service and amenities every three years through the Long Term Plan (LTP) process to ensure we have community support.  The last one in 2015 signalled that  there would be a 4.88% increase in Thames Rates in the 2017-18 (Year 3 on the 2015-2025 LTP), so our current forecast of 4.55% is actually a decrease.

On that note, under previous Council management the 2009-2019 LTP signalled that the average Thames rates would be over $3,600 pa by 2017-18 year :  more than $700 more than expected now.  So I would have to say we (as a Council)  are doing a pretty good job of being prudent.
I hope this goes some way to answering your questions."

It is true that our proposed increase (that would have been approved at today's supplementary Council meeting) is not as great as that being proposed in Auckland and elsewhere, but it is still a major imposition of in the main elderly ratepayers, who (sorry Diane!) will have great difficulty in seeing just what increased benefit they will be seeing - an indoor stadium perhaps.

These decisions are made following a considerable ballyhoo about the "need for restraint," but invariably, staff recommendations prevail for one reason or another.  


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