Review aims to cut rates increase

The Invercargill City Council will review its expenditure with the aim of reducing a proposed rates increase following criticism from ratepayers.

The council had forecast a rates increase of 4% for the second year of its long-term plan, but as part of its annual plan consultation, changes to its capital programme prompted it to propose a rise of 7.78% for the next financial year.

The amount — almost double the original forecast — upset some submitters, including deputy mayor Nobby Clark who felt the council had not explored enough options to reduce the level of increase.

Since those complaints and hearings, the council has reviewed its expenditure and income and has now included in its an annual plan a 7.15% rates increase with the potential for this level to be further reduced.

A report about the matter will be presented to councillors tomorrow at a performance, policy and partnership committee meeting.

The reports by council strategy and policy manager Rhiannon Suter presents other measures which the council could take to further reduce the rates increase by about 0.86%.

It included the reduction of the level of service within the parks and reserves activity to make a saving of $100,000, resulting in a forecast reduction in the rates increase of 0.17%; reduction of the budget for city centre activation from $250,000 to $50,000, resulting in reduction of 0.33%; and reduction of the Community Wellbeing Fund by $50,000, resulting in a forecast reduction of 0.08%.

A cut to the staff budget of $165,000, which would be achieved through management of the recruitment of current vacancies within the infrastructure group, decreasing the rates increase by 0.28%, was also proposed.

"There are a number of positions which are hard to fill in this market and are unlikely to be filled within the first half of the 2022-23 year," the report said.

"This is not expected to impact delivery but will impact planning into 2023-24."

Performance policy and partnership committee chairman Darren Ludlow said the council had heard concerns raised by members of the public.

"We know cost of living is rising and we will consider all of our options to try and bring that cost down if we can," he said.

"We are balancing our rates and our debt affordability. Deliberations will centre on the possibility of decreasing further some of council's operational or capital expenditure."

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