Ballina may seek big rate hikes

RATES in Ballina Shire could increase by more than 7 per cent every year for the next five years.

Ballina Shire Council this week decided to support a rating strategy which would see rates increase by 4pc above the rate-pegging limit set by the State Government.

The pegging limit is around three to 3.5pc.

This increase is expected to generate about $500,000 in extra revenue for the council each year.

But general manager Paul Hickey said rates in the shire would still be lower than those adopted by Byron, Lismore and Tweed councils.

The chairman of the Alstonville Ratepayers’ Association, Bob Wilson, said members would discuss the issue at their next meeting.

“Four per cent possible doesn’t seem that much but I guess it will hit some people pretty hard,” he said.

“We always have councillors attend our meetings.

“At out next meeting, we will be asking those councillors to explain their rating system to us, so we have a better understanding.”

In July, the Department of Local Government rejected the council’s application for a rate increase of 6.08pc.

Cr Sue Meehan said the council had to have a plan for the future.

“We have to be able to maintain what we’ve got, but also respond to the needs of the community,” she said.

“Nobody wants to put up rates – we are all subject to the rates as well – but we have got to go for whatever we can go for.”

Cr Keith Johnson said the council had to ‘sift through all the wants and the needs and demands’.

“You have to be very careful about everything that you do,” he said.

“You have to be prepared to say to people that the only way we can provide the things the community wants is to increase rates.

“I recognise the need. But we still have to keep our rates as low as we can.”

The rate hike was supported by all councillors except Cr Jeff Johnson, who said the council should first identify which projects it wanted to fund through the rate increases.

“I don’t support this approach,” he said.

“We should identify projects that we consider are urgent and vital for our community.”

A final decision about the rating strategy will be made at the council’s ordinary meeting later this month.

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