Council dumps levy leaving …$4m budget deficit

End of the road: Councillor Steve Simpson, pictured in January at Old Ferry Road, Illawong, has campaigned for years for a barrier and footpath to be built to protect pedestrians. Now his wish will finally come true, with the council’s draft budget earmarking $500,000 for the project. Picture: Jane Dyson
Nanjing Night Net

SUTHERLAND Shire Council will scrap its 4 percent infrastructure levy, delivering the average shire ratepayer a 0.4 percent saving.

The levy, which had one year left to run, would have delivered $3.96 million in the next financial year.

To make up the shortfall, the council will borrow $4 million from its property fund.

The proposal to scrap the levy is included in the council’s draft 2012-13 budget, released this week.

Sutherland Shire mayor Carol Provan said dropping the levy would assist residents who were financially under pressure from the rising cost of living, particularly after the introduction of the carbon tax in July.

Councillor Howard Boorman branded the budget fiscally irresponsible.

‘‘By borrowing $4 million, you are forgoing $1 million to $1.5 million in lost interest,’’ he said. ‘‘The real cost is somewhere between $5 million to $6 million that you are throwing away.

‘‘This is weak leadership and a poor decision.’’

Councillor Kent Johns said while he was fundamentally opposed to borrowing there were works under way or promised under the infrastructure levy. ‘‘This infrastructure levy is really hurting our residents,’’ he said.

‘‘To be able to say ‘your rates will decrease next year’ will show we are fiscally responsible and we feel your pain.’’

Councillor Peter Towell said the $500,000 earmarked in the draft budget for a new footpath at Old Ferry Road, Illawong, could be better used for community projects such as construction of a new Menai Rural Fire Station.

He also called for the $300,00 taken from budget for the upgrade of the the Kareela playing fields to be reinstated so that $788,000 project can go ahead.

Councillor Phil Blight said ratepayers would not save by dropping the levy because rate revenue would only be reduced by $10,000 in total.

‘‘The budget for 2011-12 shows the council’s gross rates income for that year was $102,478,000. The budget for 2012-13 shows gross rates income is $102,468,000, a difference of $10,000,’’ he said.

‘‘So dropping the infrastructure levy means residents gain only 12.5¢ a year a household, which is $10,000 spread over the shire’s 80,000 rateable properties.’’

Councillor Lorraine Kelly said the council was raiding the property fund, which was meant for big projects, not stop-gap measures.

‘‘The $500,000 for Old Ferry Road, Illawong, and $330,000 for new traffic lights in Gerrale Street, Cronulla, make up almost $1 million in uncosted projects,’’ she said. ‘‘We are sending the council and future generations into a downward spiral.’’

But Councillor Kevin Schreiber said the council had used the property fund before.

‘‘It is ratepayers’ money we are using to get rid of the levy,’’ he said.

Councillor Mark Buttigieg said the NSW Valuer General had revalued property by 13 percent so average rates were going to go up anyway.

‘‘You are going to pull down $4 million and divide it up by 80,000 (shire households) so each ratepayer is getting $50 a year for a fairly base political objective of selling it to ratepayers as a rates drop, which probably won’t be there,’’ he said.

The 2012-13 draft budget is now on public exhibition.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BUDGET

– Additional $2 million a year over five years for road and pavement rehabilitation and an extra $100,000 for footpath maintenance.

– A roads construction, pavement rehabilitation and preventative maintenance program worth $9.4 million;

– A $1.5 million footpath construction program;

– $500,000 for a footpath at Old Ferry Road, Illawong;

– $330,000 to install pedestrian lights at the corner of Gerrale Street and Surf Road, Cronulla;

– Drainage construction and water quality works worth $2.27 million, including $1.94 million funded from stormwater levy and $300,000 internal funding;

-$670,000 on new playgrounds, modifications and upgrades;

Major upgrade of Joseph Banks Native Plant Reserve;

Improvements at Port Hacking Road Reserve, Sylvania, and upgrade of Woronora Heights Recreation Facility;

Major works at Cronulla Park and The Esplanade seawall at Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club;

– Upgrade E.G. Waterhouse Camellia Gardens;

– Lighting improvements in Cronulla and Gunnamatta parks;

$600,000 for further works at Como Pleasure grounds and Scylla Bay, including the boardwalk at Carina Bay;

– The $3 million public toilet upgrade program continues;

– $840,000 for improving community buildings;

– Continuing improvements and upgrades to leisure centres, including the modernisation of Caringbah Leisure Centre;

– Resurfacing of synthetic athletics track and planning for a BMX track at The Ridge Sports Complex;

– $1.1 million for library resources and equipment

What do you think of the plan to cut the infrastructure levy?

Posted by at 04/05/2018
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