Rate rise of 7.3% projected

Dunedin ratepayers look set to pay an extra 7.3% in rates for the next financial year, along with increased fees and charges for activities ranging from building a house to burying the dead.

This year's draft budget shows the city's rates bill will rise by 61.3% in the next 10 years, 35.7% of which is the result of inflation.

• Operating costs will jump $1.4 million

The Dunedin City Council will meet at a workshop on Wednesday, then at a public meeting on Thursday, to thrash out the city's draft annual plan for the next year, before public hearings in early May.

The increase for the coming year had been set at 8.7% after last year's plan, but council staff, including a four-person team that interviewed every manager at the council, asking them to justify their spending, managed to trim that increase.

Mayor Peter Chin, asked to respond to the rise, said he was pleased it had been cut from 8.7%, but whether the cuts staff had made were acceptable to councillors, or whether they had gone far enough, would become clear next week.

"In the best of worlds, it would be good to have it further reduced."

But the council last year decided on its 10-year long-term council community plan, and its ability to make further cuts "may well be limited", Mr Chin said.

Asked to answer what is certain to be the response from some members of the public, that the rises were introduced to pay for the Forsyth Barr Stadium, Mr Chin said while some of them were for that purpose, there were other reasons.

"It's always going to be the latest project on the block that will receive the accolades for causing the rises."

But it was only partially true, as there were many projects under way.

The 2011-12 year still has a 10.9% forecast increase, before increases drop closer to 5% or less in the following years, ensuring next year's budgets will again be under the microscope.

A memorandum to city councillors from council chief executive Jim Harland said the increase was made up from an 8.4% rise in the general rate, and a 6% rise in targeted rates like water, drainage and kerbside recycling.

"Beyond regular, annual inflation effects, the two main reasons for the increases in rates are the increasing debt servicing costs associated with the capital expenditure programme, and the 5% per annum increases in the funding of water and wastewater depreciation."

The memorandum noted the timing of some of the council's major projects, including stage two of the Tahuna outfall, the Mosgiel Taieri arterial, the Otago Settlers Museum, the Botanic Garden and Logan Park, had already been delayed.

New borrowings for the next three years were set at $107 million, $39 million and $32 million respectively, an amount needed to pay for Tahuna, the stadium, the Dunedin Centre redevelopment and the settlers museum.

There has been talk behind the scenes of delaying work on the Dunedin Centre to free up budgets, and with the tender yet to be set, that is possible.

But asked about the possibility this week, Cr Richard Walls noted bookings had been cancelled after the council announced in October the town hall would be closed for 12 months during the $45 million redevelopment, requiring a variety of events to be held elsewhere.

"The thing is, what would be the point now? There's been enough mucking around."


Proposed increases
The Dunedin City Council is considering a host of fee increases later this year.
- Cemeteries
Burial rights up from $1353 to $1488.
Interment up from $1010 to $1111.
Exhumation up from $1785 to $1964.
Cremation up from $578 to $636.
- Council housing
Rents to rise by $9 a week.
- Moana Pool
Adult 12-swim pass up from $52 to $55.
- Planning
Deposit for a notified land-use consent, to rise from $2000 to $3000.
- Landfill
Charges up at Green Island, Middlemarch and Waikouaiti, from $14 to $15 for a car, from $25 to $28 for a station wagon and from $37 to $41 for a car and trailer, van or ute.
- What happens now
Wednesday: Councillors' draft annual plan workshop.
Thursday: Public annual plan meeting for debate and decisions (February 1 set aside if necessary to complete).
May 3: Public hearings (five days).
June 21: Annual plan adopted, rates set.

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