Local News

Muswellbrook Shire Council have had their rate variation permanently approved.

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Muswellbrook Shire Council after trying again and again, have had their rate variation permanently approved.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved Council’s application for a permanent 15.23 per cent single year increase.

The approval replaces a temporary special variation of 12.43%, which expires on 30 June 2019.

That temporary variation was granted last year in place of the permanent variation requested by Council as it failed at that time to meet one of application criteria.

Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush said the residential rates will stay the same as they were last year.

“Although the headlines figure will be 15.13 per cent the impact on the residential rate will only be 5 per cent and indeed no more than last year because last year it was approved for that one year and this years’ application was only to continue it on a permanent basis,” he said.

“It’s important to note too that the pensioner rebate was so increased as to offset that impact entirely for them as well so just highlighting again you won’t see an increase in your residential rating bill against last year from this year because as I say the impact was really introduced last year.”

The rate variation is necessary so a number of major projects can get underway and also be finished in the Muswellbrook Shire.

“There are five lines of funding that this will be assisting us with. The first is to replace some biodiversity offset which was exempted from rating last year, that’s around $62,000,“ said Mayor Martin Rush.

“$300,000 a year in additional flooding and storm water mitigation works, $100,000 will go to additional roads maintenance particularly on unsealed roads,”

“There will be some money also for an exhibition and performance venue, so about half of that is funded from the SRV and half from grants and contributions and lastly to complete some of the work under the Olympic Park Masterplan which has around $4.6 million worth of work schedules so as a result we will be able to fund all of those works,” said Mayor Martin Rush.

IPART said they received five submissions opposing the increase, citing concerns around the Council’s financial management, affordability for ratepayers and transparency of consultation.

IPARt Chair Dr Paul Paterson said the Council largely demonstrated its need for the additional revenue above the rate peg to implement its proposed projects while remaining financially sustainable, and that the impact on ratepayers of the proposed rate increase would be reasonable.

“The Council’s consultation ensured the community was largely aware of the purpose of, and need for, the proposed special variation, and it undertook sufficient planning and exhibition in relation to its Integrated Planning and Reporting documents to allow IPART to approve the proposed rate increase,” he said.

“Based on the Council’s application, the average residential rate will increase by $21 in 2019-20, while the average business rate will rise by $76. Because this approval replaces a temporary increase that is expiring, ratepayers will experience an increase of around 2.7% rather than the full 15.13%.”

Image credit: Muswellbrook Shire Council