"Broad community support" for rates rise, Georges River Council report says

Rate expectations: The council wrote to over 50,000 business and residential property owners, had nine public information sessions and held online and postal surveys.
Rate expectations: The council wrote to over 50,000 business and residential property owners, had nine public information sessions and held online and postal surveys.

A Georges River Council report says there is "broad community support" for a proposed 10.6 per cent rate increase, inclusive of an 8.1 per cent Special Rate Variation (SRV) and 2.5 per cent rate peg.

The council has presented ratepayers with three options:

a 10.6 per cent increase,

a 3.3 per cent increase, a rate increase of 0.8 per cent plus the 2.5 per cent rate peg, described by the council as a short-term option,

a 22.3 per cent increase, a rate increase of 19.8 per cent plus 2.5 percent rate peg.

The council wrote to over 50,000 business and residential property owners, had nine public information sessions and held online and postal surveys.

Approximately 6,300 or 12 per cent of ratepayers responded.

78 per cent of respondents to the council's survey supported a harmonisation of rates in the former Kogarah and Hurstville LGA.

There was also 66 per cent support for the proposed minimum rate of $965.80 and the introducing a higher minimum business rate for the commercial centres of Kogarah and Hurstville.

And the community felt that Westfield Hurstville should be paying more in rates, particularly as rates are tax deductible for business.

Westfield currently pays $250,000 per year, approximately $6 per square metre. Under the proposed rate structure Westfield would be paying $700,000 per year, or $17 per square metre which would bring it in-line with Westfield Miranda and Hornsby.

The results are contained the Changes to Your Rates - Community Engagement Report that was to go to an Extraordinary Meeting of the council tonight.

Approximately 6,300 or 12 per cent of ratepayers responded.

The council's report said that 63 per cent of telephone survey respondents were supportive of Option 1, the SRV of 8.1 per cent plus rate peg of 2.5 per cent.

The proportion of respondents supportive of Option 1 varied between different channels.

Figures quoted in the report are an average of all types of consultations including telephone survey, online and postal surveys and face-to-face consultations.

These figures showed:

54 per cent supported the 10.6 per cent increase. 63 per cent of telephone respondents and 93 per cent face-to-face respondents supported this option.

58 per cent (3,696 people) supported the 3.3 per cent rate increase.

15 per cent (892 people) supported the 22.3 per cent rate increase.

The most frequently occurring comments were - proposed rate increase being too high (25 per cent); need for council to make efficiencies (22 per cent); expectations of cost savings as a result of council amalgamations (15 per cent).

"In many comments it was clear that respondents held the misconception that a population increase, an increase in the number of dwellings or an increase in land value meant a corresponding increase in rates revenue," the report stated.

Should the council fail to adopt the SRV, its poor and deteriorating financial outlook over the ten year period and the Long Term Financial Plan will not be addressed, the report stated.

This could deteriorate to a $25 million deficit by 2029-30 financial year.

By adopting the 10.6 per cent rate increase it would go from a projected $1.2 million deficit in 2020/21 financial year to a $3 million surplus in 2021/22.

The council report concluded, "The outcomes of the community engagement shows there is strong support for the rates changes proposed by council.

"Support for the changes relate to the to the proposed increase to general rate income of 10.6 per cent (inclusive of 8.1 per cent SRV and 2.5 per cent rate peg), and the proposed changes to create a consistent minimum rate for both business and residential properties and the higher minimum rate for the major commercial centres of Hurstville and Kogarah," the report stated.