"Steady as she goes" sums up Mayor Ray Wallace's approach to setting the rates for the new financial year beginning July 1.
Hutt City Council is looking for a total rates take of $87.7 million, 2.59 per cent more than the current year.
Homeowners were looking at an average increase of 1.8 per cent, but because differentials are being changed in favour of business ratepayers, the average hike for home owners will be closer to three per cent - or $60 a year. (For more on the new rates differentials see page 35.)
Mr Wallace began last week's annual plan meeting by outlining the need to keep any increase to a minimum.
Many business and residential ratepayers were facing tough times and he urged councillors to only support "essential" projects, rather than those that would be nice to have. The council had received numerous requests for financial support and he predicted some people would be left unhappy with final decisions.
Councillor David Bassett said there was a big increase in the number of people unable to pay their rates.
The Christchurch earthquakes had shown the need for councils to keep debt under control, so that they have financial leeway in times of real need, and he cautioned against any move to pay for projects by increasing debt.
If Hutt City is hit by an earthquake, the council had to be in a position where it can use debt to rebuild the city, he said.
Mr Wallace presented the meeting with a proposal that was largely agreed to by his colleagues. A proposal to introduce a special rate for the central business district was rejected. The council will instead appoint a staff member to look at ways of creating growth.
The plan enables the council to remain within current debt targets, with debt now forecast to be $44.6 million in 2015 - lower than many councils in the region.
KEY ELEMENTS INCLUDED IN THE PLAN:
- Savings made by council staff of $1.2 million
- Increasing the council contribution to the Taita Community Project from $4m to $6m
- $1m for Fraser Park Sportsville, possibly for an artificial turf in 2015
- $334,000 for a bridge over the summit of the Wainuiomata Hill Rd
- $195,000 for the regional amenities fund to help fund regional attractions (this is for one year only)
- $135,000 to reseal the area around the Korohiwa Bus Barns z $240,000 for the Eastern Bays Walkways.
PROJECTS THAT MISSED OUT:
- $152,000 additional funding for Petone Memorial Park to change the design of new changing facilities
- $120,000 to upgrade the Civic Fountain. Councillors instead decided to defer the work for 12 months while a concept plan for the Civic/Riddiford garden is drawn up
- $30,000 for a skateboard park in Eastbourne
- $2 million towards Housing New Zealand development costs in Pomare.
- Hutt News