7.92% draft rates rise likely to be reduced

A draft rates rise of 7.92% next financial year is likely to be reduced when the Waitaki District Council next week starts making the first decisions on its 2011-12 annual plan.

Councillors, along with Ahuriri and Waihemo Community Board members, yesterday discussed the budget at a workshop, the first chance they had had to go through it.

Last year the council increased the total rates take for 2010-11 by 2.65%, the lowest increase of any council in Otago.

The workshop looked at items of expenditure, asked questions and raised points they wanted staff to follow up on before decisions are made on Tuesday next week.

The council will finalise the draft annual plan at its meeting on March 8, after which it will go out for public consultation.

The budget considered yesterday would increase the total rates take from $24.389 million this financial year to $26.319 million, a rise of $1.93 million.

That equates to an increase of 7.92% in the total rates take, but the actual rise faced by individual ratepayers would vary.

Yesterday, the focus was on big-ticket items.

One major driver of the proposed increase was the cost of upgrading water supplies to meet drinking water standards imposed by the Government.

The cost of an upgrading programme, which the council has already started, accounted for 2.1% of the rates increase.

Refuse disposal and landfill operational costs made up 2.2% of the rise, and sewage treatment and disposal costs added 0.8%.

Issues raised by councillors yesterday included reviewing user charges at the Opera House, Forrester Gallery, library, North Otago Museum and Waitaki Aquatic Centre; reviewing Waitaki lakes camping ground fees and the operational costs; and the dredging of Oamaru Harbour.

Also of concern were car parking and the future of parking meters; the operational costs of technical services, including building control costs; and reintroducing a kerbside refuse collection.

Councillors also looked at capital projects proposed for the next financial year.

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