WODONGA Council is leaving the door open to apply for an exemption to the rate cap which has been set at 2.5 per cent next financial year.
The council was guarded when asked about the possibility of an application for exemption being made to the Essential Services Commission.
It confirmed the option of a rate exemption application had not been ruled out and would be discussed as part of the 2019-20 budget deliberations due to begin shortly.
Wodonga Ratepayers Association president Ian Deegan said his group would vigorously oppose any attempt to raise rates above 2.5 per cent when the waste management levy over-charging controversy was so fresh in ratepayers’ minds.
“We’ve got to try and learn to live within our means,” he said.
“We, the ratepayers have to and it amazes me they would even consider doing this when they have over-charged so much money over the years.
“We’ve got to pull back, coast along for a while.and put all the grandiose ideas away for a while.”
The Border Mail understands there was an unsuccessful push to have the rate-cap exemption issue included on the agenda for the January monthly meeting.
It equated to a $715,000 loss in operating revenue which is a shortfall a successful rate cap exemption bid to the ESC could in part rectify.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass, in her report, said while the council’s practice had been in place long before the introduction of rate-capping in 2016, it enabled the council to avoid large increases in general rates.
“Rate-capping does put financial pressures on councils, especially rural councils with a smaller rate base and, often, ageing infrastructure,” she said.
“But those financial pressures need to be faced head on, in partnership between councils and their communities, rather than buried in the financial fine print.”
If a council wanted to raise rates over the cap to deliver essential projects and services it must prove to the ESC that an increase was warranted and ratepayer and community views had been listened to.
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