Council Agree to 9.9% Rates Increase
As budgets are set for the upcoming financial year, councillors have agreed to a proposed rates increase of 9.9%, reflecting escalating costs, contract variances and the necessary introduction of new roles within Council.
The increase, which is 2.3% higher than the 7.6% forecast in the 2021-31 Long Term Plan (LTP), will also enable Council to push ahead with the long-awaited library extension and refurbishment, the installation of new public toilets within Seddon Square (exact location to be confirmed) and the refit of the council chambers and meeting room that will also accommodate the introduction of natural light into the room. Both the library extension and public toilets have been budgeted for in multiple Long Term Plans.
In addition to these scheduled upgrades, the budget increase supports Council’s ability to meet current and emerging work-streams including Road Asset Information, Asset Management Administration and a variety of Government Reform activities. The revised budget will also enable Council to recruit a Climate Change/Biodiversity Officer – a position jointly funded by Environment Canterbury and closely aligned with Council’s direction and local action on climate change.
Last year, through consultation on the LTP, Council predicted a rates rise of 7.6% in 2022/23. The additional 2.3% increase proposed in this year’s budget accounts for other factors such as employment cost increases, depreciation, contract variations in waste management, increases in election costs, cleaning contracts, treasury management, audit fees, building control consultancy and a variety of computer software.
As part of the draft Annual Plan, the amendments to the budget are required in order to provide the expected levels of service as set out in Council’s Long Term Plan. When preparing the draft operating and capital budgets for Council’s consideration, staff reviewed current budgets against actual performance and achieved levels of service, including revenue (fees and charges), expenditure, and existing agreed projects. Budgets have been updated to reflect the current best estimates to achieve the same levels of service as set out in the LTP, resulting in an increase to the overall level of rates required.
With the revised budget recommendations accepted by Council, the library extension and chamber refit is scheduled to get underway later this year, with the installation of the new toilet block set to follow in March 2023. The exact details of the toilet block have yet to be finalised, though will likely comprise four cubicles, an accessible toilet, baby-changing facilities and a locked storage unit for maintenance and cleaning supplies.
The library extension and refurbishment, which has been a discussion point for almost two decades, will also proceed, with the budgeted amount of $1.65 million. This decision was made taking into account costs incurred in last year’s local government building upgrades, due to the flooding. The flood recovery work included upgrades to the front offices, replacement of carpet in the library and a replacement roof – all deemed as matters of priority and leaving a remaining LTP budget of $960,000. The proposed project cost increase equates to an overall rateable impact of approximately $38,000 in the upcoming financial year – proving minor overall.
The 2022/23 Annual Plan is expected to be adopted by 30 June 2022.