Bunbury Council backs low rates rise

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Bunbury City Council has supported one of its lowest rates increases in years despite passionate debate from several councillors for a higher option.

The council this week voted for its 2018-19 Budget to be prepared on a 2.9 per cent increase after voting down a recommendation for a 3.5 per cent hike.

Mayor Gary Brennan has praised the outcome, saying the community was “doing it tough” and the council wanted to alleviate some of the financial burden.

The lower rates increase will see the council’s estimated closing surplus at the end of the 2018-19 financial year drop from $261,025 to $41,819.

Mr Brennan said the reduction in rates income would not affect any existing or approved projects for 2018-19, with the lower increase a possibility through identified cost savings in the Budget.

During debate on Tuesday night, Cr Betty McCleary argued for a 3.5 per cent increase saying if the council wanted to attract visitors, new residents and industries to the city it had to spend money.

“The city has to rely on a healthy revenue base to achieve this ... take a minute and look back over the last five years and remember what we have achieved,” Cr McCleary said.

“Bunbury’s in good shape because we dared to make brave, responsible decisions, staying informed, motivated and focused regarding budget rises.”

Cr McCleary said a reduction in rates would leave the “struggle and pain” to ratepayers and future councils when a correction in rates and “huge” increase would be required.

Cr Brendan Kelly agreed saying the higher increase was still “modest” and the income contributed to infrastructure such as paths and playgrounds, which the community wanted.

Cr Karen Steele also argued that she would rather have a bigger buffer to be able to “play with things throughout the year”.

But Cr Jaysen Miguel argued for the lower amount, saying no projects were being dropped and the council was passing its savings back onto the community.

“I think I speak for most of us when we’re budgeting, if you sit there with a reserve of some money in the back pocket you think ‘oh we can dip into that and not worry about it’,” Cr Miguel said.

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