RIGHT: Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith explains why council needs to raise rates.
RIGHT: Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith explains why council needs to raise rates. Marc Stapelberg

Will there be job losses as council fixes $6m black hole?

LISMORE City Council's general manager has promised no jobs will be lost as they take their draft plan and budget to the community for consultation.

And the rate rise is likely to be less than half of the much-discussed 31.4 per cent.

Council GM Shelley Oldham saidthe 31.4 per cent rate rise would only go ahead if ratepayers choose to proceed, "with all the items in the plan".

"The 31 per cent encompasses the totality of the community strategic plan, it is not fixed," she said.

"The final figure is totally in the hands of the community depending on what they tell us they want."

However, Ms Oldham said a likely cumulative increase for a rate rise for 2021 could sit around 14.5 per cent plus the government rate peg of 2.5 per cent.

She said the council's hands regarding rate pegging were tied by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

"We've priced all the things in the community plan which are still to be done," she said.

"We are very conscious the community will come back and tell us we don't want to do it all, it's too much."

She also said the council had been able to shave more than $3 million off its $6 million deficit by holding off on crushing gravel.

"We have a team at the quarry and under our EPI licence we keep a stockpile for eight or 10 months and by not crushing rocks we save $3.6 million," she said.

"And we are not making anyone redundant."

Meanwhile, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin said she couldn't see anyone embracing the rate hike.

New South Wales Business Chamber regional manager, Jane Laverty, also said the council must be transparent and clear with the details to inspire business confidence.

Ms Laverty said to be vague about details would spell disaster.

"Our caution is that you can't be vague - business leaders like to see specifics on a return on investment," she said.

"Some businesses have little wriggle room to absorb extra costs, what would certainly help our community is if both State and Federal governments act quickly on the promises made prior to the March and May elections to support Lismore."

Anglicare North Coast offers financial counselling for the community and chief executive Estelle Graham said she anticipated more people would struggle to pay their rates.

Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Patrick Healey said they have met with council who guaranteed them they will not increase rates without going to the community.

"LCCI will be front and centre representing our business members during the consultation," he said.

Page MP Kevin Hogan was also contacted for comment.



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