Sutherland Shire rates could rise about 25% over four years

The rock pools at Cronulla are among items in the council's balooning infrastructure backlog. Picture: John Veage

The rock pools at Cronulla are among items in the council's balooning infrastructure backlog. Picture: John Veage

Sutherland Shire residents would face a rates hike of about 25 per cent over four years under a council proposal to eliminate a rapidly growing infrastructure backlog.

The proposal is Model 2 of four options – and the one recommended by council officers – in a long-term financial plan Sutherland Shire Council will put on public exhibition on Thursday.

Under Model 2, rates in 2017-18 would rise by just 1.5 per cent, as pegged by the state government, but the council would seek government approval for a rise of 5.5 per cent on top of the normal rate-pegging figure for the following three years.

The compounding nature of the increases, together with forecasts for the rate-pegging figure to return to about three per cent, would see rates being about 25 per cent higher by 2020-21.

The infrastructure backlog stands at $35 million at present and is forecast to grow to $159 million in 10 years time unless action is taken.

The other three options are:

  • Model 1: “Business as usual” – allowing the infrastructure backlog figure to grow.
  • Model 3: 1.5% rise in 2017-18 and then increases of 4.5 per cent above the pegged figure for the following three years, plus introducing user fees and charges for infrastructure deterioration. This could mean charges for use of sports fields and paid parking.
  • Model 4: A sale of surplus council land, introducing efficiencies, lowering service levels and introducing fees and charges.

Cr Kent Johns, on behalf of the Liberals, rejected Model 2 and unsuccessfully sought to have a fifth option endorsed as the council’s preferred position at Monday night’s meeting.

Cr Johns proposed a 1.5 per cent rate increase in 2017-18, to be followed by an efficiency dividend on staff costs through natural attrition, a review of fees and charges paid by private users and the sale of redundant assets.

Cr Johns said his plan would stop the infrastructure backlog growing, but would not eliminate it.

He claimed a resolution for the 2017-18 budget passed by Labor councillors and Independent Steve Simpson endorsed “model 2” as council’s preference for the following three years.

“I don’t think they realised what they were doing, and now they are back pedalling,” he said.

Cr Johns said Model 2 was “a money grab” and “highway robbery”.

Labor councillor Peter Scaysbrook said the four options were being placed on public exhibition so ratepayers could have their say.

He denied Labor councillors had endorsed Model 2.

“We do however, have to address the infrastructure backlog left to us by the Liberals,” he said.

Cr Johns denied the Liberals left a big infrastructure backlog, saying when they controlled the council the backlog was cut from $90 million to $24 million.

The long term financial plan is among a suite of strategies the council is exhibiting on Thursday.

They follow community consultation for a Community Strategic Plan.

The council’s 2017/18 budget  and $45 million capital works program is also being released.

CAPITAL WORKS ALLOCATIONS

Allocations include:

  • $18.6 million for the transport infrastructure program.
  • $10.1 million for the roads construction program.
  • $2.9 million for footpaths.
  • $2.3 million for the shopping centre upgrade program.
  • $3.6 million for cycleways
  • $400,000 for shire gateway path at Como.
  • $2.9 million for the Woolooware Bay stage IV cycle-walk path.
  • $4 million for parks and playgrounds.
  • $520,000 for Barden Ridge Park.
  • $200,000 for Cronulla coast walkway Extension (Don Lucas Reserve).
  • $300,000 for Stage II of Joseph Banks Native Reserve (picnic area and pond)
  • $750,000 for the Silver Beach east / west pathway connection.
  • $125,000 for Friendship Place Reserve in Illawong.
  • $150,000 for Narnia Park in Alfords Point.
  • $3.4 million for waterways.
  • $300,000 for Bonnet Bay pontoon and car park upgrade.
  • $300,000 for Gunnamatta Bay Baths refurbishment.
  • $1,4 million for stage II of Old Ferry Road Reserve upgrade.
  • $556,000 for the Tonkin Oval boat ramp and wharf upgrade.
  • $2.1 million for stormwater infrastructure.
  • $1.6 million for natural areas management.
  • $1,3 million for sporting fields.
  • $250,000 for the BMX facility at the Ridge Sports Complex.
  • $1.8 million for bushfire stations and SES facilities
  • $1.2 million for replacement of Sandy Point RFS building.
  • $1.2 million for new library resources.
  • $805,000 for Leisure Centre improvements and renovations
  • $625,000 for renewing and refurbishing Early Education Centres.
  • $440,000 on public toilets and sporting amenities.

Mayor Carmelo Pesce said the strategic plans being released for consultation provided “a path to achieving the goals of the long-term Community Strategic Plan through service delivery and management of council’s $2 billion infrastructure portfolio over the four year term of council”.

“Last year we undertook a community survey and residents said they wanted to be more informed about and participate in the decisions of Council,” he said.

“We were given feedback on what is important to our residents, what we do well and how we can improve.

“This feedback has been taken on board through our draft plans.

“Our community values our environment and our sense of community, we love our active lifestyle and we want a prosperous future.

“We know council’s role in infrastructure provision means our decisions today impact not only this generation but future generations, so it is critical that we are responsible custodians and leave a positive legacy.

“That’s why it’s important to take a long-term approach to planning.”

The council plans – Delivery Program, Operational Plan and Resourcing Strategy – will be online and copies will be available at the administration Centre in Sutherland and at council libraries.

Visit:  sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au to view the documents an provide  feedback.

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