By TONY FOSTER OAM
THIS issue of Brighton Community News highlights Council’s decision to maintain our fair, flat rating system for residential properties, holding rate rises to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Increase (CPI).
For households this increase of 2.8 per cent equates to a rate rise of just $21 for the next financial year, or 40 cents a week.
What it means in real terms, after taking account of inflation, is that Brighton’s rates in 2014-2015 will be exactly the same as this year.
And we are proud of the fact that we have held rate increases at or below the rate of inflation for 18 years. We are also proud that the fairness of our rating system has been confirmed by the Auditor-General who has reported that Brighton boasts the lowest per capita rates in Tasmania, and that the Council operations are among the most efficient in the State.
So how has Brighton been able to achieve this and at the same time continue to provide the full range of services and facilities for our community? Indeed, while we have held down rate rises while actually expanding services and improving public facilities?
We have been able to do this because of the efficiency of our Council operations, the hard work and dedication of our people and our success in using and providing shared services with other, like-minded Councils. The effort has been driven by our management team and by the determination of Councillors to ensure that the needs and circumstances of our ratepayers are considered at all times.
We are aware of the cost of living pressure on our community – the ever-increasing cost of electricity, petrol, health services, groceries and other necessities. As a Council, there is little we can do about most of these cost increases, but we certainly do not want to add to that burden on ratepayers.
But services such as garbage collection, street lighting, road and public facilities maintenance, planning and the like all cost and Council itself is not immune from increases in electricity charges, wage increases and other imposts.
But through careful budgeting, and the success of our shared service arrangements with other Councils and our local government information technology software initiative Microwise, we have been able to keep rate rises to a minimum.
Brighton Council’s budget will be formally considered at our June meeting and at that time I will be in a position to advise of all the detail of our plans for the coming year.
But the important rates’ decision was agreed at our budget workshop in May and I am sure this is welcome news.
Importantly, Council also reaffirmed its commitment to our flat rating methodology and determination to maintain any future increases at or below CPI movements.
Following on from the most recent State Election, it is interesting to hear proponents of local government amalgamation start to encourage the new Government to move on this front.
However none of the proponents are prepared to guarantee that Brighton ratepayers will continue to enjoy the lowest per capita rates in Tasmania, that our fair, flat rating system will be maintained, or that future rate increases will be kept at or below CPI.
That is a challenge they will be unable to meet.