Council proposes 2.95pc rate rise

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:26 28/02/2014

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The Marlborough District Council is proposing a 2.95 per cent rate increase this year.

The council yesterday debated what activities would be funded before taking its annual plan and budget out to the community for people to say what they thought should be funded.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said keeping the rates increase to 2.95 per cent was "outstanding". At the start of yesterday's all-day meeting he said setting the budget and direction for the year was the council's biggest responsibility.

It was about the services provided to the people of Marlborough, he said.

"We want to maintain the current level of services, we do not want to see these cut . . . there is a rates increase implication with that."

The draft budget was "largely business as usual", Mr Sowman said. Infrastructure was most of that.

Doing nothing more than what had been done previously and had to be done would increase rates by 1.91 per cent.

On top of that, there were important things that needed funding, such as the council's monitoring of coastal water space, and a project to revitalise the central business districts of Blenheim and Picton. The council's smart and connected economic development programme got funding, as did some stormwater and freshwater supply projects.

Mr Sowman said some of the projects council considered were "very worthy, some are vital".

"It's about delivering on a tight budget. There are signs of recovery but our job is to decide where to draw the line."

Councillors took all day to work through its agenda during a meeting that started at 9am yesterday, finishing the draft budget about 3pm, and finished remaining public council business at 4.45pm before moving into a publicly excluded session where commercially sensitive material is discussed.

Debate was not often around whether activities should happen, but tended to centre around whether the activities should be funded from rates or from council reserves. Those reserves are funds built up from council activities such as its property development business and its forestry business.

The draft budget and annual plan goes out to the community for its input. People can make submissions on what they think should be funded and to highlight new projects worthy of funding, and a hearing of those will be later in the year.

The final meeting to strike the rate is held in June.

Mr Sowman agreed with councillor Jamie Arbuckle that it would be good to get more feedback from the community about the budget and they were to work together to find a way to make sure people could have their say.

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- The Marlborough Express

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