Council’s funding comes under pressure

Mayor Tim Cadogan.
Cutting costs to suit their cloth was leaving councils down to their "skimpies", Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said last week as savings were sought in every nook and cranny.

Both the Teviot Valley and Maniototo Community Boards met last week and both had to consider a report outlining significant rates increases in their areas.

A report recommended to the Central Otago District Council the Teviot Valley grants fund be increased from $5200 to $10,200 in the 2024-25 annual plan, despite warnings from Mr Cadogan and community vision group manager Dylan Rushbrook that applications for grants had not exceeded current funding and rates could only be raised for an actual need.

Board member Gill Booth said in light of coming rates increases and general financial hardship, there could be more demand for grants.

Teviot board chairman Norman Dalley said with the pending delegations review, giving grants might be one of the few things left for the board to do.

Board member Mark Jessop said the extra $5000 would cost each of the 1140 rateable properties slightly less than $4 a year.

Mr Cadogan said council staff had worked hard to reduce the rates increase.

When they began working on the budgets in February, the increase would have been 45%, not the 20% now anticipated.

"People say cut your cloth but we are down to our skimpies now."

The only option to reduce rates further would be to cut services and he was not sure what could go.

In 2015, bridge depreciation was cut to keep ratepayers happy and now there were bridges falling down around the district, he said.

Central Otago did not have assets to burn, and slashing and burning depreciation accounts would make future ratepayers pay for today.

Councils all around the country were in the same position.

"Some will hide it ... I never in seven and a-half years as mayor thought I would see rates go up 20-plus percent."

The board also agreed to stop mowing grass verges in Roxburgh.

Council parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey said as far as he knew, Roxburgh was the only place left in the country where the council mowed the verges.

Stopping that would save $26,000 which could be used for tracks and trees, he said.

The Maniototo Community Board pondered any contributions to the Ranfurly multisport turf, planned for the Maniototo Area School site.

Board member and Maniototo ward councillor Stu Duncan said he was not against the turf, but was concerned about ratepayers’ money being used for what was an education funding issue.

Board chairman Robert Hazlett pointed out the board borrowed money to fund the Maniototo hospital.

Council community experience group manager David Scoones said the school board of trustees had advised it had about 70% of the funding needed and planned to sell three surplus school houses during the winter.

Mr Duncan said he did not think selling assets in the current climate was a good idea.

He proposed any decision about funding should be rolled over the long-term plan discussions with the community and the board agreed.