By TONY FOSTER
Mayor of Brighton
BRIGHTON Council has approved its budget for the next financial year, keeping the increase to the annual rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Hobart of just two percent. The increase for householders amounts to $17 a year, or a little more than $1.40 a month.
This is the 23rdconsecutive year Brighton Council has kept it rate increase at or below the CPI rise and we are particularly proud of this achievement. We’ve been able to do this with other sources of revenue, particularly as many State and Commonwealth Government grants to local government have reduced or disappeared.
Indeed, our budget for the coming year has been framed after accepting a 33 percent reduction in Brighton’s dividend from TasWater, a situation confronting all councils to improve Taswater’s capacity to address statewide water and sewerage infrastructure upgrades.
Rather than develop a grab-bag of spending and then determine a rate increase to fund this, Brighton’s approach is to apply CPI to our current revenue and then develop our budget based on that figure.
For the past 23 years, this has enabled the Brighton Council to deliver the full range of local government services, maintain and develop existing and new infrastructure, employ talented, innovative and hard-working staff members and continue to develop our municipality as a great place to live, raise a family and increasingly, work.
It is not rocket science and I believe it is what our ratepayers expect of their council
It’s called living within your means and it is what householders do every day of the week, every week of the year.
In fact, I would argue that no council should be increasing rates higher than the annual CPI. However, my personal view is that few adopt this approach and certainly, none have done so for anything like the 23 years achieved by Brighton.
With all councils determining their rates for 2018-19 this month, it will be interesting to see how many contain the rise to CPI or below, and how many seek higher rate increases.
Brighton Council is extremely conscious of the cost of living pressures on our community and we are determined to keep our charges as low as possible.
Our record is there for everyone to see.
In the five years to 2016-17, Brighton’s rates rose by a total of just six percent, well below the average of all Tasmanian councils of 14 percent, with two councils increasing their rates by 24 percent and 28 percent respectively over the same period.
It is difficult to see how this can be justified and the council aldermen, councillors and management must be required to explain the reasons why they have imposed these increases on their ratepayers.
The reports of the Tasmanian Auditor-General consistently list Brighton as, or among the best, performing councils in the State. As well as the lowest rates, Brighton also has the lowest per capita number of employees and employee costs as a percentage of annual operating revenue at 23.1 percent is a full 10 points below the average of all councils of 33.1 percent.
As well as the efficiency of our operations, our strong financial management, plus the success of our MicroWise business and our commitment to shared services with other councils, Brighton ratepayers continue to benefit from the full range of services at the lowest possible cost.
All this has enabled us to hold down rate increases for our community and it is an approach I am hopeful Brighton Council will maintain into the future.