Low rates increase on the cards for Bunbury

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Bunbury residents will be facing their lowest rates increase in years if Bunbury City Council supports a 2.9 per cent rise tonight.

While the council’s long-term financial plan is based on a 3.5 per cent increase in its 2018-19 Budget, chief executive officer Mal Osborne has put the lower option on the table.

A 2.9 per cent increase would reduce the city’s rates income by $219,206 but would still leave an estimated $41,819 closing surplus by June 30, 2019, according to Mr Osborne.

The council will tonight vote on which increase to base its 2018-19 financials ahead of locking in its latest annual budget on June 26.

Mayor Gary Brennan said he believed a 2.9 per cent increase was “doable” and the lower option was being considered because of identified savings and that fact it was “still fairly tough out there”.

“To their credit, the CEO and his team have really gone back through their programs for the current financial year and they’ve looked at everything – all the major projects particularly – in some detail and have identified some projects they have budgeted for coming in under,” Mr Brennan said.

“The thinking was we could go to the community with a lower rate increase than the 3.5 per cent we’ve been factoring in so far, if we reduce our predicted surplus.”

He said the more than $200,000 in rates savings was better left circulating in the community and the council would still be able to complete its major projects.

“I believe that’s doable and I also believe – as our officers have demonstrated over the past few years – they will be identifying further productivity improvements within our organisations.

“The CEO and his team understand the situation as well as I do that things are still fairly tough out there, but there are improvements happening in our economy down here.

“On reflection, if we can bring a 2.9 per cent rate increase for 18-19 I think that will be welcome by our community, particularly our business community. And I think the future out-years will be far better economically than they have been for some time now.”

In his report to the council, Mr Osborne said the lower rates increase would have a $3.5 million affect on the city’s 15-year financial plan.

But Mr Brennan said that would only be the case if the 2.9 per cent was continued and that was “not going to be the case”.

“Every year the city council determines what the rate increase will be and the IFP is a guide to the future, it’s a guide to our future projects and it’s also a guide to how we fund each of those projects and that’s all that figure is, just a guide,” he said.

The council is also set to advise ratepayers that instalment dates for the 2018-19 year will be about 15 days earlier.

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