2.6% rate increase

By Robert Muir

Federation Council’s draft Annual Budget for 2020/21 provides for a rate increase at the 2.6% NSW State Government-imposed rate cap. 

Most other fees and charges increase by 2.7%. Waste facility/environmental levy increases from $45 to $55 per property/assessment to meet the cost of regulatory requirements with council’s landfills.

Council’s draft Delivery Program and Operational Plan and Long Term Financial Plan is available for public viewing for a period of 28 days from 30 June until July 27, 2020 prior to being formally adopted at the July 30 council meeting.

In her report to councillors on Monday, council’s director corporate and community services Jo Shannon said council is cognisant of the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the community and local economy. 

“The following Delivery Program contains numerous initiatives to improve the liveability of our communities and to support the wellbeing of community members,” she said at council’s extraordinary meeting on June 29.

“These include the significant community infrastructure projects such as the Corowa Swimming Pool, Urana Aquatic Centre, All Abilities Playground Mulwala and the Howlong Multipurpose Centre, and also the expanded community grants program. 

“The Delivery Program also supports our local economic activity. The roll out of the North of the Murray tourism branding strategy and tapping into regional tourism programs will assist our tourism operators and the update to the Economic Development Strategy will provide direction across key industry within the Federation Council area.

“Planning for key infrastructure upgrade and renewal projects such as the Ball Park Caravan Park upgrade and Corowa Foreshore work is being prioritised to be shovel-ready when opportunities arise through State and Commonwealth Government stimulus programs.” 

The public can view Federation Council’s draft Four Year Delivery Program and Annual Operational Plan, its draft Ten Year Long Term Financial Plan and the draft Revenue Policy (including Fees and Charges Schedule). 

Developed in conjunction with the community, the plans set out the priorities for Federation Council over a 10-year timespan, taking into account local community needs, and regional and state priorities. 

The Operational Plan also includes the detailed annual budget, along with the council’s Statement of Revenue Policy, which includes the proposed rates, fees and charges for that financial year. At Federation Council, the Delivery Program and Operational Plan have been combined into one document, to streamline planning and reduce duplication. 

Council has set out to deliver a $21 million Capital Works Program in addition to carrying forward projects from 2019/20: roads: bridges and footpaths $2.2 million; water and sewer $3.0 million; deliver on many community projects that have been funded through the Stronger Communities Fund, Stronger Country Communities Fund and the Regional Growth Plan; undertake significant roads management and maintenance; complete construction and open the Corowa Swimming Pool; complete construction and open the Urana Aquatic Centre; continue construction of the Corowa to Mulwala Cycleway; develop a Stormwater Drainage Strategy for urban areas; develop Water and Sewer Systems Capacity Review; finalise the Integrated Water Cycle Management Plan; finalise and implement Council wide Waste Management strategy and ensure alignment of service levels to residents and industry needs; complete development of the Howlong Business Park; progress sales of lots in the Corowa, Howlong and Mulwala Business Parks; undertake streetscape improvements to make towns and villages more attractive for visitors.

Plans are in place to implement the new North of the Murray Branding strategy and develop an associated marketing plan, and to update the Economic Development Strategy for the council area. 

Ms Shannon said with the opening of new community facilities since formation of Federation Council in 2016, increased operating and maintenance expenditure required to support usage and renewal of the facilities into the future poses a challenge.

“Given the NSW Government Stronger Communities Fund provided council with a once-off cash injection to create new community infrastructure projects and set a strong foundation for the betterment of council and its communities, Federation Council set out to undertake a comprehensive review of its financial position through the development of the Long Term Financial Plan to identify funding strategies for the future,” she said.

“It is important for council to note, the next stage of this work will be further informed by the undertaking of the Rates Harmonisation project, and Community Satisfaction Survey, which will provide council with detailed analytic data and community feedback around what is most important to our communities in terms of service delivery, how we are performing as a council, and their desire for council to develop funding strategies or provide the community with different funding models such as further grant funding, and complementary to this a special rate variation over a two year period to ensure the council area continues to progress and position itself as a growing and financially sustainable council in line with community expectations.”

Federation Council area rates are currently in the lowest 10% of the NSW local government areas according to Ms Shannon.