Rates increase concerns raised

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Proposed rates increases are too much and should be extended over a longer period, locals say.
Bill Townsend and Gerry Eckhoff, both of Alexandra, are concerned that residential rates increases of up to 16% will be a particularly heavy burden for retirees on fixed incomes.

The Central Otago District Council’s draft budgets for the 2020-21 annual plan included some high residential rates increases, including 16% for Teviot Valley, 15% for Ranfurly and Ophir, and 14% for Clyde and Omakau.

Mr Townsend said he was very concerned about the extent of the proposed rate increases.
He had spoken to local people who were ‘‘shocked’’ by some of the proposed increases.
Mr Eckhoff said towns such as Millers Flat and Roxburgh were recognised as ‘‘not wealthy towns’’ and had a ‘‘huge number of superannuants, fixed income people’’.

Some of the rates increases were to fulfil government mandates including waste disposal and improving drinking water quality.
‘‘It is something that has come down from high, from Government, but it’s not affordable, and we think that there should be a far greater degree of intergenerational funding for these projects.’’

‘‘You get superannuitants in this town, [aged] 75-80 onwards. I don’t see why they should pay for the water and sewerage infrastructure that is going to last hopefully for another 50 to 100 years.’’

Mr Townsend questioned why the council was not borrowing to pay for these schemes, in particular when interest rates were so favourable at present.
‘‘Our generation and future generations can pay for it.’’

Council executive manager corporate services Leanne Macdonald said draft budgets for the 2020-21 annual plan would go out for public consultation for a four-week period from March 16.
Three areas that were pushing up council budgets, and in turn rates, were increased costs and service charges, unfunded government mandates and growth.

Water, wastewater, recycling and rubbish were the activities most impacted by rising costs, and because they benefited urban areas the greater increases were falling on urban properties.
Urban property values had experienced significant growth and because some parts of rates calculations were based on property value, that had seen some increases.

The council was focusing its public consultation on a sole topic this year — its proposal to join the Local Government Funding Agency scheme.
‘‘Public consultation is a legislative requirement before we can even decide to go down that path of borrowing.’’

At present the council had no debt and would be calling for views from the community on whether it should take on debt to deliver big capital projects in order to spread that cost over all the generations who would benefit from it, not just the people paying their rates today, she said.