FEDERATION Council mayor Pat Bourke believes Riverina municipalities will still struggle to cover costs, despite being given approval to lift their rates to a higher level in 2024-25.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal on Tuesday November 2023 released its final 2024-25 rate pegs for councils across NSW after changing its method for calculating the caps.
It has set Albury's rate cap at 4.7 per cent, with Berrigan, Edward River, Federation all at 4.5.
Greater Hume's mark is 5.2, just ahead of Snowy Valleys and Wagga (5.0), but behind Lockhart on 7.2.
The variations in the peg levels are tied to a population factor which is added to the core rate peg figure of 4.5.
Under the 2023-24 peg settings, Lockhart had no add-on, but has received 2.7 for 2024-25.
Lockhart mayor Greg Verdon said the shire had recent census growth, with a 2.8 per cent population increase in the last five years.
By comparison Albury's inhabitants have risen by 5.8 per cent over the same period and Greater Hume's by 4.7, giving them smaller rises above the 4.5 base rate level.
"The 7.2 gives us some more flexibility into some of the programs we want to look at and what we can do with them," Cr Verdon said.
The 2023-24 rate pegs were 3.7 for Albury, Berrigan and Lockhart, 4.3 for Federation and 4.7 for Greater Hume.
Federation mayor Pat Bourke, who is also the chair of the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation, cautiously welcomed the new pegs but pointed out they paled in comparison to 40 to 50 per cent variations that have been sought.
"It is a step in the right direction, it's a start, but a lot of councils still have to meet enormous costs," Cr Bourke said.
IPART chair Carmel Donnelly said her organisation's change in methodology "will produce rate pegs that more accurately reflect the increase in costs for each council".
"These rate pegs are based on employee cost increases, forecast inflation and council-specific changes in Emergency Services Levy contributions and population growth," Ms Donnelly said.
Cr Verdon said his peak council body, the Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils, had urged IPART to better differentiate between Sydney and rural councils.
"We're very pleased that IPART has cut it down into three or four components as to how they determine the rate peg, that's good recognition that we're not all the same," he said.
"It's a pretty significant victory for smaller regional councils."
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