By TONY FOSTER
LAST month, the Brighton Council considered its budget for the forthcoming financial year and our financial and capital works plan was approved in principle. It will now go to Council for formal approval at the June meeting.
The Budget provides for a rate increase of just 1.3 percent, in line with the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Hobart. This means that the largest rate increase for a residential home in the Brighton Municipality will be $11 a year or 21 cents per week.
This is the 20th year in succession that Brighton has held down rate increases to CPI, which essentially means no real increase at all, and I am proud that we are leading the State in this regard. No other Council in Tasmania can boast a similar achievement and I doubt that any local government authority in Australia can match Brighton’s record.
In considering our budget, we were mindful of the cost pressures on ratepayers and the increases in charges for electricity, water and sewerage and other necessary services, many rising well in excess of the inflation rate. We certainly don’t want to add to that burden and by maintaining our fair rating policy based on a flat rate for residential properties, we continue to be the lowest rating council in Tasmania.
But that does not mean we are neglecting the services and facilities that our community requires to function. The full detail of our budget that will be released after it receives formal Council approval will demonstrate that we will continue to support all the appropriate services and undertake a range of projects to support ratepayers and the community.
We are able to do this because Brighton Council operates extremely efficiently and our rate base is supported by innovations including resource sharing with other like-minded councils and our MicroWise software business that earns valuable revenue that helps fund local services. We keep our administration costs to a minimum and that means that we are able to focus our spending on areas that most benefit our ratepayers.
In making our rates determination, we are saying this is what our revenue will be for the next year and we must operate within that. Like households must do, councils must also live within their means and Brighton is doing just that. It will be interesting to see what approach other councils take.
I hope that they follow Brighton’s lead and rate increases are held to CPI. But I suspect that many, particularly some of the larger councils, will not. If this is the case, it should for once and for all end the claim that bigger is better, as well as halt the push for amalgamations to create larger councils.
Experience interstate clearly demonstrates that council amalgamations have resulted in higher rate charges on householders and larger councils inevitably mean larger bureaucracies and increased costs.
By holding down rate increases, while still achieving significant growth, improved services, and a strong capital works program, Brighton is demonstrating that our model is sustainable and appropriate, particularly in the current economic climate.
I must commend our Council officers for their work in developing the budget recommendations and my fellow Councillors for their input and diligent consideration. I look forward to reporting further on our initiatives for 2016 – 2017 after Council has approved the budget and rates determination in the next few weeks.