Jan Barham
Jan Barham

Rate rise slated for Byron Shire

HOMEOWNERS in Byron Shire face a hike in rates of well over nine per cent for 2010/11, to help cope with what Mayor Jan Barham calls ‘a challenging budget for this upcoming financial year’.

Cr Barham said ‘the continual cost shifting from the State Government to local councils’ would mean a special rate application for Byron Shire Council for the upcoming financial year’.

The special rate application is for 6.98pc – which would come on top of the 2.6pc cap.

For the average residential property, an additional 6.98pc would equate to an increase of $66 a year, or less than $1.30 a week, on residential ordinary rates, the council said.

“The recently announced rate pegging of 2.6pc by the NSW Government makes it impossible to maintain the level of service expected by our residents and ratepayers,” Cr Barham said.

The cap did not cover the real costs that council experienced and didn’t allow for increases in electricity, wages and equipment, she said.

The proposed rate hike is contained in a Draft Annual Management Plan, which is on public exhibition until May 10.

The draft plan details the services and programs to be delivered by Council along with an overview of capital works planned for 2010/11.

The Byron Bay increase will help pay for services and infrastructure programs including the new library, the Sport and Cultural Complex, including maintenance, information technology enhancements, contribution to emergency services, beach scraping at New Brighton, Wategos Walking Track and bikeways construction.

Byron’s special rate increase compares with Lismore City Council’s application for 3.51pc, in addition to the annual rate pegging of 2.6pc.

The council will write to property owners over the next two weeks with a personalised estimate of what their rates will be next year should the special increase go ahead.

Residents will be invited to join an online forum where explanatory information will be presented.

Residents will also have a chance to express their views in this forum and ask questions of Council staff.

Ballina Shire, which has a $189,000 deficit in it 2010/11 draft operating budget, is aiming for a special variation to the pegging limit to increase rates by an extra 4pc for the next five years.

Cr Ben Smith said: “The reality is that we need more income to deliver more services.

“There needs to be a large funding change to get where we need to be.

“We have to keep pushing for the special rate variations, because then we would be able to better achieve the things that the community deserves.

“I hope we get it (the special variation). We should encourage the community to get behind us and support us.”

In Byron Shire, two public meetings will be held to allow the community to learn about the draft document.

They are on Tuesday, April 27, at the Council Chambers in Mullumbimby, and on Wednesday, April 28 at the Council Depot in Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay.

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