The Narrandera Shire Council has agreed to apply to ICAC for a Special Rate Variation of 48.1 per cent to be introduced over two years, going against its general manager’s recommendation in favour of one year at 41.5 per cent.
It will seek approval under section 508A of the Local Government Act 1993 to increase the ordinary rate income of 25.5 per cent in 2024-25 (including the rate peg) and 18.0 per cent 2025-26 (including the rate peg) representing a total cumulative increase of 48.1 per cent over a two-year period, with those increases to be permanent increases retained within the rate base.
General Manager George Cowan’s recommendation to Councillors was to proceed with an application to IPART for the permanent SV to be introduced in 2024-25 and to continue to implement the improvement plan and conduct a review into the balance between Farmland, Residential and Business rate categories.
Tuesday’s decision will mean the minimum ordinary rate for Residential Ordinary and Business Ordinary categories will be set at $640 for 2024-25 (including the rate peg) and $755 for 2025-26 (including the rate peg) and the minimum ordinary for Business Narrandera category to be set at $715 for 2024-25 (including the rate peg) and $845 for 2025-26 (including the rate peg) representing the cumulative increase of 48.1 per cent (including the rate peg).
All landowners in the Shire had the opportunity to examine these proposals, attend a series of public consultation sessions in Narrandera and towns throughout the shire and make submissions.
Out of 3,611 ratepayers a total of 187 submissions were received – 145 objections and 42 submissions that either supported an increase or were neutral – and these will accompany the request to ICAC.
The increase in rates is designed to enable Council to continue to provide quality services, to fund asset renewal and the upgrade of the Narrandera stormwater system.
Council recognised that the LTFP adopted showed Council as sustaining continuing operating surpluses from 2024 and having positive cash flow from 2023.
It recognised the impact of the proposed increase on the properties currently rated as “Farmland” and called for the Council GM to report to Council prior to June 30 2025 on the appropriateness of the current balance of rates income between farmland, residential and business.
An improvement plan adopted by the Council in June 2023 will be implemented and the Council GM will report to Council six monthly on the outcomes.
A gallery of onlookers attended the meeting but only one attendee former Narrandera Shire Councillor Bob Manning sought permission to speak, while former Mayor Wesley Hall tabled the ratepayers’ petition against the rate rise. Councillors had already been given copies of the petition prior to the meeting.
SRV rates careful consideration given by Council
Mayor Neville Kschenka made it clear at the outset that the Council understood their concerns and reminded people that the Council had looked for savings wherever possible but extra income was needed.
His preference was for Options 3 – a Special Variation application introduced over two years of 48.1 per cent, but it was up to the Council to decide.
Former Deputy Mayor Cameron Lander outlined several options to the Council before stating that he favoured the one year option and then see what happened in the future.
Other strong cases and opinions were put forward by Crs Sue Ruffles, Narelle Payne, Peter Dawson (in favour) as well as Jenny Clarke (against). Cr Tracey Lewis expressed her disappointment at the personal attacks on the Mayor and councillors.
Introducing the SRV over two years was considered by the majority of councillors to be the better option, although it was pointed out that the rate increase had to have the approval of ICAC before it was introduced.
This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 23 November 2023.