Zero rates increase not option for CODC

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Zero increases in rates post Covid-19 are not an option as Central Otago grapples with the impact of the pandemic on the district’s economy.
How the rates bill will look for individuals has yet to be settled.

The Central Otago District Council met online on Monday to discuss how to assist ratepayers under a ‘‘new normal’’ in the 2020-21 annual plan and made some concessions.
Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs told the meeting changes from the ‘‘no frills’’ budget proposed in February, pre-pandemic, would only extend so far in the new environment and that did not mean a zero increase in rates.

The proposed 4.9% increase in average rates across the district now sat at 1.1% after some pruning of the prepandemic budget and savings, topped up by reserves.
Ms Jacobs said the council faced a ‘‘once in 100-year event’’.
‘‘We have a balancing act and we cannot be all things to all people,’’ Ms Jacobs said.

Council corporate services executive manager Leanne Macdonald referred to her report and said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was likely to cause increased financial hardship in Central Otago through job losses and possible business collapses.
‘‘This may result in an increase in applications from the community seeking a rates remission,’’ Mrs Macdonald said.
‘‘The council’s policy must have enough criteria to ensure the remission is granted to those that are genuinely facing extreme hardship.’’

The process of approving, or not approving, an application had to be transparent and applied consistently, she said.
The council’s extreme financial hardship rates policy had limited detail on the criteria required to demonstrate extreme financial hardship.
The Government had provided a range of initiatives to support people’s incomes and livelihoods as a response to the pandemic, she said.
They included wage subsidies, working with banks to provide mortgage holidays and providing accommodation supplements administered by the Ministry of Social Development through Work and Income.

Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was clear not everyone would face the average 1.1% increase in rates but the council was still obliged to levy them or risk losing the support of central Government.
The Council tabled the remission policy for extreme financial hardship relating to Covid-19 until its meeting next month.