Close council vote sees a 4.5pc rates increase likely

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Bunbury residents are a step closer to seeing a 4.5 per cent rates increase this year after Bunbury City Council voted to base its 2017-18 Budget around the figure.

During budget workshops this year, councillors have differed in their views as to what the increase should be.

The differing of opinions flared on Tuesday night when the council debated between a 3 per cent and 4.5 per cent rise.

The council eventually voted on the 4.5 per cent increase in a close 6-5 count.

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The budget will now be prepared and the rates increase will go out for public advertising, despite concerns being raised that “times are tough” and the community would not be able to afford the increase.

Mayor Gary Brennan spoke in favour of the 3 per cent increase on Tuesday night, saying the council needed to acknowledge the community was doing it tough.

“At the moment our community can’t afford a 4.5 per cent rates increase in my view,” Mr Brennan said.

“A 3 per cent rates increase is very responsible, it’s doable, we can still cater for growth within our city and we can also make adjustments to some of our capital projects.”

Cr Betty McCleary made a strong case for a 4.5 per cent “no frills” increase after moving the recommendation.

Cr McCleary said if the recommended increase was not supported, the community would be harder hit in future years to stay in line with the council’s 15-year Integrated Financial Plan.

“If we shy away from the 4.5 per cent increase as per the IFP, sometime in the future there will have to be a rates increase catch up,” Cr McCleary said.

“This will cause financial difficulties for the community and jeopardise the city’s capacity to continue with asset renewal and other initiatives required to ensure that our city is the most sought after place to live, work and holiday.”

She said the council needed to be fiscally responsible to “get Bunbury going”.

“We quite often hear, ‘why has Busselton got everything or why has one other shire got everything and Bunbury hasn’t’ – simply because our rates have always been at its lowest and we’ve only just been covering what is necessary.

“It is time – if we want to do things for Bunbury and attract people here to Bunbury, money attracts money.

“Population has stalled in Bunbury, there’s nothing happening in Bunbury, Bunbury looks old and tired, rates is the answer.”

Cr Sam Morris argued that Bunbury’s rates increases had a history of being the lowest and 4.5 per cent was appropriate.

“Over the past three years under the guidance of this council and the mayor, our rates have actually increased far less than the surrounding shires,” Cr Morris said.

“We are, in fact, the cheapest place in which to live in terms of rates.”

Mr Brennan said yesterday anyone concerned with the rate increase should make a submission during the advertising period.

The council will consider all submissions when it locks in the 2017-18 rate increase in July.

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