Council Secures Financial Future
Farmers will receive a 20 per cent discount on their rates after Bass Coast Shire Council adopted a new Rating Strategy at last night’s meeting.
Two key financial documents were adopted at the meeting, with Securing Bass Coast’s Future, the Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) also on the Agenda.
Mayor, Cr Kimberley Brown, said it was evident through the consultation process for the rating strategy that the amenity provided to the community by the farming sector and the positive impact on lifestyle and tourism is most valued.
“Providing a differential rate for the farming sector would contribute to protection of rural landscape and amenity, whilst also providing direct support for the agricultural sector which is an important economic driver in the community,” Cr Brown said.
“Additionally, benchmarking we’ve undertaken shows that a farm differential is a common approach taken by other rural councils.”
Cr Brown said Rating Strategy was the subject of a discussion paper prepared by the CT Management Group, who then assisted Council with the community consultation process in conjunction with the LTFP.
The new Strategy also includes a General Rate and a Waste Service Charge, making the Farm Differential Rate the only change to previous years.
“Whilst the introduction of an Environment Service Charge, as identified in the discussion paper, is not proposed at this time, the strategy does support such a charge in principal,” Cr Brown said.
“Accordingly, the Rating Strategy proposes that the introduction of this charge be considered during the preparation of the 2016/17 Council Budget.”
Long Term Financial Plan
Cr Brown said there are some significant challenges Council is facing now and into the future, with the most important being the need to increase its investment in renewing aging infrastructure.
“This is an environment where Council is under increasing pressure to contain operating costs whilst also providing new facilities for our growing population,” Cr Brown said.
For these reasons, the long term plan delivers on three core objectives.
To contain operating costs – for example, in year one of the Plan, operating costs will increase by just 1.6 per cent, which is below CPI.
Increase asset renewal – in year one, an additional $3.5 million will be allocated to renewing assets and over the life of the Plan, $120 million will be allocated to asset renewal.
Provide capacity for new facilities – the Plan provides a capacity for new intergenerational assets, such as recreation and cultural facilities with up to $73 million being available.
Cr Brown said Council has traditionally been a low rating and low spending council, with this reflected in the LTFP.
“The Plan provides modest increases in rates and contains operational costs, including staffing, at or below 3.5 per cent per annum,” Cr Brown said.
“This will ensure Council continues to be low rating and low spending operationally.
“A further key element of the Plan is the commitment to review services to ensure efficiencies and service levels meet community needs,” Cr Brown continued.
“This program will be reported annually and savings delivered will be available to provide new services or facilities for our growing community.
Cr Brown said the LTFP also references the State Government’s proposed introduction of its “better rating system” which is likely to allow the ability to seek increases above any cap put in place.
The Minister for Local Government recently stated rate increases beyond CPI would be permitted for emergency management, federal cost-shifting and urgent infrastructure upgrades.
“This is exactly what our long term plan articulates,” Cr Brown said.“It has contained operating expenditure and any additional funds beyond CPI will go straight into urgent infrastructure upgrades.”