Dunedin ratepayers face a 3% rates rise for the coming
financial year, after a last-minute bid to trim the increase
Councillors yesterday voted to endorse the increase, subject
to final approval next month, after six days of deliberations
on more than 1000 public submissions on its 2014-15 annual
The decision came after councillors were asked to choose
between extra debt repayment or a lower-than-expected rates
A tough-nosed approach to new spending since last Monday had
left councillors with a $345,000 surplus and a rates rise
which, if left unchanged, would have stood at 2.72%.
That would have been below the targeted rates increase of no
more than 3%, but councillors had to decide whether to take
the lower increase or use the surplus to repay debt, pushing
Cr Hilary Calvert believed lower rates should be the
priority, and pushed for a 2.72% increase, saying it would
''send a powerful message'' to ratepayers.
''It would be a powerful message that we are deciding to keep
rates down in Dunedin,'' she said.
She won support from Cr Lee Vandervis, but failed to convince
the majority of councillors, who instead favoured Mayor Dave
Cull's move to use the surplus to repay debt and accept a 3%
Cr Richard Thomson said it would be ''superficially
attractive'' to keep rates lower, but the saving would amount
to ''about 10c a week'' for the average ratepayer.
Accelerating debt repayment would reduce the burden on
ratepayers by ''far more'' in future years, and ''that to me
is the most important thing'', he said.
''I don't think the political kudos of reducing rates ...
warrants abandoning getting that debt down as fast as
possible,'' he said.
Others agreed, including deputy mayor Chris Staynes, who said
the council had worked hard to get into a position to retire
extra debt, and Cr Jinty MacTavish, who said it would be
''remiss'' not to do so.
The decision came after councillors approved responses to
each of the 1119 public submissions received, and signed off
a list of final civic grants yesterday.
To complete the process, councillors had already been forced
to extend last week's deliberations into yesterday to deal
with the weight of public submissions.
Even so, they had to adjourn yesterday's proceedings to make
time for a full council meeting and public forum, before
swapping rooms again to resume their budget deliberations
later in the day.
Mr Cull said yesterday's decision was ''a choice between two
very good outcomes'', and praised councillors and council
staff for their hard work.
''I'm actually very proud of the fact we have achieved that
[3% rates rise] and I'm very proud of what staff have