Rate relief for Albury, councillors look at major upgrades

ALBURY ratepayers have been given a reprieve from three successive above average rate rises with a return to the state government-imposed rate peg increase of 2.3 per cent.

Two years ago ratepayers confronted one of the largest rate rises in the city’s history of 6.09 per cent as the middle leg of the special rate variation impost.

The rate bill for the average property in Albury will be $1202, which is an increase of $24.27 on the current financial year. 

In 2014-15 they will be paying an additional $145 in combined rates and charges, or $2.78 extra per week.

It is welcome relief from the combined charges rise of the current financial year of more than $200.

Council’s debt level is forecast to be slightly reduced to $52.8 million by the end of next financial year.

A small surplus of just more than $100,000 in the general fund has also been budgeted for at the end of 2014-15.

The debt service ratio of 6.82 per cent remains in the “satisfactory” category as assessed by the Local Government Department.

Council’s total budget has grown to $126.5 million, with $46.6 million earmarked for capital works.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack said the council would invest in critical infrastructure, including improvements to 40 local roads at a cost of $4 million.

“We will also be spending more than $17 million on the water and sewer network to deliver upgrades that will improve the city’s water quality and supply,” he said.

“It’s clear in 2014-15 we will be focusing on the fundamental infrastructure that our residents rely on every day.”

The council has set aside $7 million for the art gallery upgrade, which is double the intended contribution from ratepayers after the failure to secure $3.5 million from the NSW government.

Another $1.8 million will be spent on repairing Kiewa Street between Dean and Smollett streets.

The Alexandra Park athletics track will be reconstructed at a cost of $1.1 million.

The Urana Road Oval facilities upgrade has been brought forward following recent lobbying from user groups.

Council has allocated $75,000 to assist with initial planning.

Another $414,000 goes to the installation of solar panels on council buildings, including its Kiewa Street headquarters and Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.

The debt reduction and predicted surplus is evidence of the service and efficiency review introduced across 12 areas of its operation by general manager Frank Zaknich 12 months ago is working.

“The challenge is to make sure those surpluses remain sustainable into the future,” he said.

Councillors will consider the draft budget on Monday night.

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