Cost-cutting may reduce rate rise

New cost-saving measures and the scrapping of council-funded road safety courses in schools are expected to result in a lower-than-expected rate rise in Waitaki.

The Waitaki District Council committee of the whole resolved this week to recommend the council stop paying for three unsubsidised road safety education programmes in schools in 2013-14.

Pulling out of the education programmes would save the council about $5000. Mayor Alex Familton said the Government had "stepped back" from funding similar programmes, and it was not the council's job to fill the gap.

"Ratepayers should not be subsidising taxpayers. School are funded [by the Government] and we should not presume to double check that funding. It is up to us to keep pressure on the Government."

The committee recommended that the council still provide $11,658 towards a road safety media project at Oamaru Intermediate school, and more than $75,000 for six other projects, which would receive 66% of their funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

It was also recommended that the council save $39,000 by not funding public alert sirens, and that it set aside $50,000 to conduct investigations, in consultation with the public, on how to solve land stability issues at Moeraki.

Although committee chairman Cr Jim Hopkins said it was still very early in proceedings, it was hoped that the projected 4.7% rate increase for the year, forecast in the council's long-term plan could be lowered.

He said a 3.8% increase or less was achievable with efficiencies introduced by council staff.

"We are clearly mindful of our community's desires." Mr Familton said he, too, hoped for only a modest rate increase.

The draft annual plan would not be completed until February and the final plan would not be adopted until March, but council policy manager Fraser Liggett said starting discussions now would allow for a "more meaningful conversation" in the new year regarding potential rate increases.

However, a public consultation phase was yet to come and the final plan could still change.

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz