Councils go cap in hand

LISMORE and Ballina councils are likely to ask the State Government for approval to increase residential rates above the 3.5 per cent ceiling for next financial year, with other local councils still considering their options.

Ballina Council will consider a staff report at a meeting on Wednesday that recommends a 4pc rate rise for the next five years above the sealing after last year’s 6.08pc application was rejected.

The council wants to eventually increase its rates to 80pc of those charged by similar councils.

As reported in The Northern Star in August, Lismore councillors have asked staff to prepare a report about raising rates as much as 6.6pc to fund road improvements, the proposed Margaret Olley Arts Centre, environmental projects and CBD business promotion.

It will be presented to councillors next month, followed by a period of community consultation, mayor Jenny Dowell said yesterday.

“We deliver a high level of services to our community, but it is getting harder each year to provide quality services to our growing population and to maintain existing assets,” she said.

“Nobody likes the prospect of rates increases. However, without extra revenue it will not be possible to improve our service levels.”

Byron Shire Council said it was still formulating its budget for 2010/11 and had not yet determined its rates structure.

Likewise, Richmond Valley Council said it was in the midst of a community consultation process about resident’s future needs and had not decided on rate charges.

A report released in July found Lismore charged the highest average residential rates ($865), followed by Byron ($783), Ballina ($598),  Kyogle ($575) and Richmond Valley ($514). The state average was $732.

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