Battlers fear rate hikes
By LUKE PRENDERGAST
RICHARD GATES fears a proposed Richmond Valley Council rate rise will crush Casino and Coraki battlers.
"A number of pensioners in the area who are struggling already will struggle to pay any extra," the Evans Head and District Ratepayers and Residents' Association vice-president said yesterday.
But higher rates are on the cards after councillors voted last month to raise rates by 10 per cent next financial year, and 7.5 per cent in each of the next five years ? a total rise of 58 per cent that will raise an extra $12.2 million.
The increase is planned despite Prof Tony Vinson's report for Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, which found Casino, Coraki and the entire Richmond Valley, except the coastal fringe, are among NSW's most disadvantaged.
An independent inquiry headed by former secretary of the Treasury, now Professor Percy Allan, said council needs to spend $101 million to bring infrastructure up to par.
The plan will be on display for public comment for 28 days from mid-May.
The council's finance manager, James Brickley, said the plan would be submitted to NSW Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey in May.
Council must inform the Minister of public feed- back, but is hoping for a response before the end of June. If it wants to raise rates it must give notice by the end of July.
"In Casino the average residential rate, the land rate, is $524 now and in 2012/2013 it will be $827," Mr Brickley said. Water, sewage and garbage charges will rise by $600.
"We have a very low rate base," Mr Brickley said. "Individual rates make up 15 to 17 per cent of council's total revenue, which is very low."
Dr Gates questioned why an Evans Head swimming pool was high on the agenda when so much infrastructure work was required. But Mr Brickley said a community committee had been raising mon- ey for a pool for years.
If the community rejects the plan council will cancel the application. Dr Gates plans to call a meeting to discuss the matter before the end of March.