Bass Coast,
04
March
2016
|
06:32
Australia/Melbourne

Council to consider the rate cap

Bass Coast Shire Council will consider retaining a rate cap of 2.5 per cent as set by the State Government at the March Ordinary Meeting.

Council decided in December 2015 to engage with the community on whether they would prefer a rate cap or for Council to seek a variation, before committing to an option.

Council CEO, Paul Buckley, said the community engagement achieved what it set out to do – establish whether the community supported a variation to the cap, and if not, where they believed Council should reduce expenditure, services or projects.

“The community was asked to prioritise how important Council services and projects were to them and asked for suggestions on where Council could find efficiencies, savings and cost reductions,” Mr Buckley said.

“We were pleased with the number of community members who participated in the workshops, drop-in sessions, survey and those who provided individual feedback or had one-on-one discussions with staff.”

Council informed and collected feedback from the community via a variety of means, including:

  • four public community workshops in Wonthaggi and Cowes
  • three ‘drop in’ sessions in Grantville, Newhaven and Inverloch
  • one-on-one appointments with a senior staff member
  • advertising and media releases to local media outlets
  • radio interviews
  • social media, such as Facebook and Twitter
  • an online and printed survey
  • presentations by senior staff members at community group meetings

“It was pleasing to see that beyond the workshops, drop ins and use of traditional media to inform the community, which attracted over 130 people to our sessions, we had a large take up through social media after the launch of Council’s Facebook Page.

“In total we reached over 13,000 people through Facebook and Twitter just on Rate Capping, which was encouraging. It has shown it is a great way to keep both residents and non-permanent residents informed and connected to what Council is doing.”

Information to support the community was also made available on Council’s website at www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/ratecap and by hard copy, or upon request at Council’s Customer Services Centres and at the Community Workshops and Drop In Sessions.

Any documents provided were also available in hardcopy or upon request at Council’s Customer Service Centres and provided at Community Workshops and Drop in Sessions.

The three main threads of discussion and feedback captured from consultation were to apply the rate cap, achieve this by operational efficiencies, savings and reductions, and to seek alternative revenue streams.

Other common points of discussion and feedback included:

  • Reduce services to spend more on capital works projects
  • Reduce staff salaries
  • Work with the Municipal Association of Victoria to reduce cost shifting from other levels of government and increase grants funding
  • Find alternate revenue streams such as a rate surcharge for non-owner occupied residences and funding from public and private corporations within the municipality who either don’t pay rates or contribute less than they could
  • Reduce funding spent on printed publications and focus on communicating with ratepayers electronically and through other means
  • Reduce funding support to other organisations (for example the SES, community grants, libraries, peppercorn rent, etc.)
  • Sell assets that are not well used to fund other projects
  • Pursue more user pays services such as paid parking in tourist areas to get more income from visitors to the area
  • Only consider a variation where it has demonstrated every effort to deliver efficiencies and reduce costs
  • Reduce expenditure on consultants

Mr Buckley said Council will also consider results of the Impact of Rate Capping survey ran over a three-week period in February.

“This was also an opportunity to get feedback and understand priorities from people who did not want to attend a community workshop or drop in session and was completed by 205 respondents,” Mr Buckley said.

From the survey, one of the key questions asked was ‘Should Council seek a variation to the 2.5 per cent rate cap?’

Consistent with the other community feedback opportunities, the responses were as follows:

  • No, rates must be capped at 2.5 per cent - 73%
  • Yes, I support Council seeking a variation of 4.7 per cent - 11%
  • Yes, but only where it has demonstrated every effort to deliver efficiencies and reduce costs - 16%

More information on the engagement process and feedback from participants can be found in the Council Report as part of the March Ordinary Meeting Agenda at www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/2016meetings.

Council will consider all feedback on how to accommodate the rate cap when it prepares its draft 2016/17 Budget, which will be released on 21 April for community consultation.