Council aims for modest rate hike
The Marlborough District Council will debate its budget on Thursday, aiming to keep a rates increase below 3 per cent.
The draft budget to be approved this week proposes an increase in rates and charges of 2.57 per cent. Up for debate are nine further measures that could cut a further $250,000, dropping the increase to 2.11 per cent.
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said a rigorous approach to council budgets this year should ensure one of the lowest rates movements in a decade.
In a report to the council, councillors were reminded they decided to either maintain or improve levels of service. There were extra demands from government caused by changes to the Building Act and the National Drinking Water Standards, as well as significant increases in insurance costs from the Christchurch earthquakes.
"For the preparation of this budget, council revenue and expenditure has been reviewed on a ‘line-by-line' basis with a view to reducing budgets and removing non committed increases in service levels and capital expenditure."
Mr Sowman said the programme outlined in the draft budget was heavily weighted toward core infrastructure, particularly on water quality issues.
"There is very little new spending in this budget. I am also conscious that council needs to concentrate on the district's top priorities, and I believe that right at the top is the essential infrastructure to deliver better water quality across Marlborough."
He said the biggest components in the spending programme directly related to the ongoing costs of big capital projects to raise water quality standards through sewerage and water upgrades in Blenheim and Picton.
"I can't stress too much the importance of this work. We're stopping the overflow of sewage into Picton harbour in bad weather, we're getting sewage out of the Opawa River and we're ensuring the drinking water in Blenheim and Picton meets national standards."
The cost of such big capital projects was spread over several years to make them easier for the district to fund.
"Our long-term planning had indicated that rates could rise by almost 5 per cent for 2013-14 but Council has reviewed budgets line by line. They've been thorough and I doubt that many other regions will be able to present such a strong picture."
Mr Sowman said it would be up to councillors to decide where spending cuts might be made. Staff had put forward options, including deferring projects.
The council meets at 9am on Thursday in the council chambers on Seymour St to consider the Budget for 2013-14.
- The Marlborough Express