Budget Approved at 2.2%

After months of work and a seemingly never ending conversation Coucnil last night approved the 2016/17 budget.

 

imagesIn recent days that conversation became quite polarised with a small number of councillors pushing for a 2.7% increase. The change in the conversation during this time alarmed me in that there was no prerequisite to raise the rate increase we had worked on all that time. Just an arbitrary and without foundation we believe it should grow by 0.5%.

 

Thankfully Coucnil showed a maturity and demonstrated leadership by approving the 2.2% rate increase which had been nominated in our public consultation. A rate increase we had no fewer than 4 outside experts confirm as a responsible rate increase and a responsible and sustainable level of debt.

With the lowest rate rise in the time I have been on council I believe we have set a responsible and sustainable budget.

It includes from those of us who live in the west of Unley’s point of view the following:

      Councils contribution to the under-grounding of power lines @ $ 300,000 of Goodwood Road

      Upgrade of Goodwood Road streetscape and way finding @ $ 3.3 m (using loan funding)

      Continuation of the implementation of the King William Road Master Plan

      An increase in funding to address issues raised thus far in our LATM study

      $ 250,000 towards preliminary works on Brownhill Creek

      Safety road works around the Goodwood Primary School

      Footpath replacements in Laught Avenue Black Forest. The remainder of footpaths in the Clarence Park ward are scheduled for 2017/18 when the program terminates.

      Tennis Court resurfacing and fence repair at Page Park.

      A catch up of CPI for our community grants scheme.

      Fruit trees in Princess Margaret Playground

      Responding to tree risk assessment in Dora Guild Playground

In signing off I note that a 2.2% increase on annual rates paid say of last year at $ 1,600.00 equates to an increase of $ 35.00. This is of course subject to whether your homes value (as determined by the Valuer General) alters at the same rate as the combination of all properties in Unley. In other words there may be some variation to this.

The minimum rate will increase by $ 17.00 to $ 758.00

 

Rates Out of Control Take 2

Following on my first two blog posts on this topic I again challenge the concept of why the media has a fixation on our rates should be aligned to CPI.

The capacity to pay the rates is the substantiation that the media promote for keeping them aligned to CPI.

Forgetting my argument about what services to keep and what to get rid of, what new services to provide and what not; all of which I believe is the most important part of ensuring we area sustainable, let us examine what the capacity to pay is.

Yes, I absolutely agree our ratepayers must have the capacity to pay and if they don’t this too is unsustainable. I ask therefore what is capacity to pay and how can it be measured.

As I indicated in my first post on this subject CPI is not a measure of capacity to pay. It is a measure of what a package of goods and services have cost the community in the last 12 months.

What the true measure of your ability to pay is what has happened to your pay packet or your pension.

CPI has risen according to my information 31.3% in the last 10 years. In that time wages rose 43.6%. So in spite of the media’s take that we are finding it harder to make ends meet and are in a worse position than the past, these figures indicate that we are in fact better off. That basket of goods and services from my first blog post on this subject is taking less of our pay at that rate.

But what about those on pensions, they are doing it tough. My research indicates that pensions have risen 57% in that time. This suggests pensioners are significantly better off notwithstanding what we all may have felt.

The recent article of course will show that rates generally have exceeded even these increases. Thankfully Unley is one that has risen the least in that time, up 55.2%. Our rates therefore have risen 11.6% more than wages in that time but less than pensions by 1.8%.

Keeping rates within the capacity to pay is a challenge and truly, I think we have done reasonably well.

I trust our rate payers appreciate that whatever our rate levels have been that they have been provided value in that the community has benefited in a tangible way with improved infrastructure and worthy and valuable services that all go to an improved living environment here in Unley.

Rates Out of Control Take 2

Following on from this mornings blog post I wish to make some other observations about Council Rate Increases and how they should be rated.

This morning I questioned why they are always compared to CPI by the media.

I wish to throw two thoughts out there for people to consider. The first, which I cover in this blog post, is what backs up the level of rates Councils charge. The second I will cover in another and separate blog post.

Council rates provide the opportunity to provide services to the local community. Without rates we do  not provide rubbish collection, library services or community centres. We don’t provide facilities for our community sporting groups to provide exercise and activity opportunists for or community. The list goes on.

Each year Council considers a business plan for the coming 12 months and a long the financial strategy. This plan determines which services are to be provided and is put out to the public for their input.

The plan composes all the programs that Council considers should be part of creating and sustaining their community and providing an environment for good living. This is all about identifying what we can do for our residents and businesses, costing them out so we know the impact on our resources.  We then debate which programs should have the highest priority and whether or not we can implement them.

And I must say that this year we had real problems determining which programs were worthy of continuing or starting afresh and/or which programs should be slowed, stopped or not even started. A debate over programs all of which will enhance the livability of the neighbourhoods we serve.

Now…Unlike Federal & State Governments we take this plan out to our people for their input. Residents and businesses get the opportunity to advise us which programs they would continue or which ones they would axe. If they do not like the amount of rates they are more than welcome to suggest which programs to keep and which to get rid of.

The final rate increase is set only after this procedure has been completed, the public have had their say and we as elected members make our final determination of which programs to proceed with.

This years plan has been available for public scrutiny for a month or more now and public submissions close tomorrow. It can be found on our have your say webpage