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Hearings on Dunedin City Council’s draft 2020-21 annual plan are scheduled for next week and while the plan consulted on in April calls for about 52% of council’s proposed $321,225,000 revenue to come from rates — including a $10.2million increase (6.5%) in the overall rates take — the standing of the other about $154million in expected revenue remained unknown, Mr Hawkins said.
But speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, he ruled out his support for both the sale of council-controlled companies and major layoffs at the council.
"I don’t see the value in us going through a process where we significantly reconfigure what it is that we offer our community.
"And I’ve been quite clear that I’ve got no interest in supporting a slash-and-burn budget for the coming financial year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask staff to identify opportunities where we can reduce costs in the coming financial year," he said.
Making staff redundant was not "the solution to our problems either in the short term or the long term".
The impact of a post-Covid-19 Dunedin on the council’s revenue remained unclear, but possibilities included a lower rates rise, increased borrowing, targeted rates remissions policies or a combination of the three.
Mr Hawkins said he also understood the Government did not expect councils to slash rates and then ask for help to get planned projects across the line.
Further support to the community, including possibly some of the $211million worth of "shovel-ready" projects the council had asked for assistance with, was also unknown at this time.
Otago Regional Council chairwoman Marian Hobbs rejected the idea of considering revised budgets yesterday.
"We are not jumping ahead of the consultation process," she said. "We have received submissions on our annual plan and will have hearings [this] month.
"As a result of that process, councillors will make decisions ... in June.
"While we have not directed staff to make Covid-19-related changes to our annual plan or to eliminate any rates rises, the annual plan is subject to change until the councillors adopt it."
Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull said there was "a lot of pressure, quite understandably, from a lot of people" for lower rates increases across the country despite councils’ revenue from other sources already falling.
"A lot of people say, ‘Well, cut out the nice-to-haves’," he said.
"I would say, in general, across the country, there’s not a lot of fat in the system.
"What are you going to cut out?"