Waitaki rates to rise 6.5%

Average rates rise of 6.5% for Waitaki district ratepayers - described as a "cost crest" by Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton - will be formally confirmed by the Waitaki District Council when it meets on Tuesday.

Councillors hoped to reduce the increase to between 4.5% and 5.5% when they considered the draft long-term plan's rise of 7.4% on May 29.

However, after considering about 500 submissions and options to reducing the increase, councillors decided to go with a 6.5% increase.

The 2012-22 long-term plan has been approved by Audit New Zealand for final approval by the council on Tuesday. At this stage, it is difficult to make changes to the plan.

If the council decided to do that, it would have to go through the process of another Audit New Zealand review and it would fail to meet the legal requirement in having it approved in time for the new financial year, which starts on July 1.

In his report to Tuesday's meeting, Mr Familton says the community and council are "positive and determined" to make progress in the next 10 years, despite economic challenges.

This includes a determination to attract, retain and support business interests, while maintaining the district's social structure.

The recent economic climate had presented challenges for the council and community which will require careful budgeting.

"We realise some businesses and individuals have been more negatively exposed than others, particularly individuals on fixed incomes," he says.

The council faces a "budget challenge" next financial year because of costs beyond its control, including a reduction in roading subsidy, increased insurance costs, upgrading water supplies to meet Government standards and lower interest rates on investments.

For the last four years, councillors had kept rates in step with inflation.

"They will, after deciding to push through the cost crest this year, be striving for budgets in step with cost price increases [inflation] next year and for the balance of the long-term plan [10 years]," Mr Familton says.

Under the 6.5% increase, the council will collect $27.21 million in rates next year.

However, the rise in individual rates will vary from ratepayer to ratepayer, particularly those facing the cost of upgrading water supplies, who will have greater increases.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz


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