The Marlborough Express asked Marlborough District Council candidates if it was realistic to aim for a rates rise next year of no more than the rate of inflation, and if so what would they do to achieve this.
Jamie Arbuckle: Consistent low rate rises are needed as there are many people in our community struggling in the current financial recession. The council has exhausted many of its reserves accounts and has many commitment projects. Exploring new revenue sources, partnerships with private enterprise and community are needed. Users of council assets should be paying their fair share so ratepayers aren't being burden by the operating costs of assets they don't use.
Brian Dawson: We should have as our starting point for rate increases people's ability to pay (taking into account wage and salary increases for the year), rather than just deciding what is needed and then passing on the resulting increase. Long term the only solution to managing rates increases is growing the rate payer base and spreading rates across a greater number of people and businesses.
Richard Feather: Did not respond to question.
Alistair Sowman: To keep rates increases to the rate of inflation can be a goal; however there are many other influences. Over 90 per cent of council expenditure is on core services, so any work in that area has an impact on rates. All councillors that I know want to keep rate increases to a minimum; reality is they are managed on an annual basis determined by the facts on hand.
Martyn Birch: This is not unrealistic, it requires elected officials to work with council management, to work with a budget that is capped at the rate of inflation; Councils job is to work within it. During my time in business, the base price for the produce that we grew did not keep up with the rate of inflation. Therefore we needed to increase efficiencies and productive, in order to yield acceptable returns, this is common with most successful businesses. Now is the time for council to do exactly the same thing. As a starting point, the budget for spending for electioneering should be cut by 25 per cent.
Cynthia Brooks: To not match the rate of inflation means going backwards at a time when Marlborough needs growth. Things have to be done smarter to keep rates increases to a minimum. Rates cannot keep going up and up; they are already unaffordable for many people. I would encourage greater use of Marlborough businesses and suppliers and to tap into the vast pool of local knowledge and voluntary expertise that exists in Marlborough to see what other solutions can be found.
Bev Doole: A rate increase that is no more than the rate of inflation is a worthy objective. I would focus on the must-haves, such as drinkable and affordable water for all Marlborough residents, and then see what was left for the good-to-haves, such as the expansion of Lansdowne Park. I would also seek other income streams for council, such as introducing occupancy charges for marine farmers.
Geoff Evans: Rate increases generally should not exceed the inflation rate. Increases above this level should only occur for new development or projects. Methods to make this happen include more use of debt to spread costs to users (Marlborough District Council has one of the lowest debt levels in NZ) and attention to levels of service. It would be great to be able to give ratepayers a choice where possible - more service or less rates.
Peter Jerram: We will go through each item in the budget and in the Annual Plan, and assess its need, cost and benefits.The LTP suggests a 5 per cent increase as worst case, but history shows we can slash that in half without losing community benefits.
Graeme Barsanti: This is my aim, but you must keep the infrastructure up to date and working well so that we do not drag behind and have a huge rate increase in later years. Blenheim and Picton sewerage upgrade needs completion. Government has raised standards for potable water, increasing costs. Roading costs are our biggest expenditure. Disasters happen. At annual plan time the community helps decide where money will be spent. Have your say then.
Trevor Hook: Did not respond.
Richard Feather: Did not respond.
David Oddie: Most elected members will be conscious of the rate impact in our district and work to keep them as low as possible. It is equally important to keep our council debt level low and not use debt to postpone rate increases to a later date. In the middle of this councillors need to be conscious of maintaining satisfactory levels of service. I will give considered and balanced weight to the rating process.
Jenny Andrews: My mission statement is: I cannot promise the earth but I will quietly deliver the goods. I feel it is unrealistic to promise but I will certainly work to make the rates as little as possible with out compromising progress and core services . We need to still be mindful of our community well-being and responsibilities.
Jamie Arbuckle: Answer above as mayoral candidate.
Jessica Bagge:I look forward to being part of a new council that understands our annual plan expenditure, line by line, and is able to balance the needs and expectations of our whole community with the income. Previous council has already committed us to major expenditure, so a nil rates raise is not realistic. But where to from here is entirely in the new council's hands.
Keith Buck: No, it's not unrealistic, and it's been done before. As the mayor has reminded us, the council is about governance not management. All it takes is for the council to actually govern, set the budget increase at the rate of inflation, and then have management manage within it. Of course, that would mean electing myself and like-minded councillors who are prepared to front up and stop the tail wagging the dog!
Erin Cresswell: I think it is hard to say at the moment. That depends on what obligations our current council have to projects. I think we need to be careful with spending and realistic with what our costs are going to be.
Sue Cresswell: Did not respond.
Liz Collyns: Voters tell me their biggest concern is rates rises therefore we need to keep spending within our means as householders have to. Our responsibility as councilors is to set the rate and the staff's responsibility is to prepare the budgets to met it. Then the councilors will have to make hard choices over what is essential and what is desirable. That is the job you vote us in to do.
Brain Dawson: Answer above as mayoral candidate
David Dew: It is realistic to have rates at the inflation rate going forward but why accept that automatically? I think we should aim to do better than that. I always look to increasing revenue from existing assets (the only candidate to think this way) so rates are not automatically increased. A councillors role is to put pressure on management to perform better all the time. Unfortunately some councillors are just show ponies and don't do this.
Adele Galloway: I'm committed to keeping rates fair and as low as possible without penny pinching on infrastructure and general maintenance. I am confident that, with careful monitoring of council spending, future rates could stay at the 'rate of inflation' but it would definitely mean that some council plans and activities would have to be put on hold. It is important to me that future generations are not burdened with debt and poorly maintained infrastructure.
Aaron Goodwin: We have to be realistic. Rates kept at the rate of inflation would see little to no money for improving essential infrastructure, especially to keep up with population growth and increasing ratepayer expectations. The key is to make sure it's fair to both current ratepayers and future generations - so debt funding for some long life infrastructure means the burden is spread across users (current and future).
John Leggett: We can, and should, aim for a nil rate increase. Current levels of services can be maintained. We need to continue to review the timing and spread of major projects and the application of other funding sources - dividends received from Council owned assets (shareholding held forestry investments and Port Marlborough), rental from Council owned land and the sale of sections in the Taylor Pass subdivision. It can be achieved.
David Lloyd:Keeping the rates tagged to the rate of inflation is not an unrealistic goal. The reality is if you haven't got the funds needed you cut spending, and live within your means. My goal in the coming year would be to see where we could make real savings within the present structure, and make assets return more to its owners.
Russell Montgomery:There is no guarantee that rates will mirror inflation due to the fact that council operating costs can remain unaffected by the drivers of dropping inflation such as audio equipment and domestic airfares. Like you, I value my hard earned dollars and want less rates, not more. I promise to heavily scrutinise council costs to ensure they are fair, justified and in the best interest of your pocket and mine.
Michael Mooney: A rebate is easily possible. The ratepayers deserve relief from the 10 million council fund left over. Two to three million would give 10 per cent or 5 per cent rebates over two years. Ratepayers pay too much! Services which do not exist (bus routes) and for scandalous bus stops, parks and theaters. Review rates. Widen burden to non ratepayers on user pays principle. Ensure corporates pay a fair share. Gut all the waste audit tendering.
Laressa Shenfield: Operational efficiencies and sensible decision making is the key. We must strive to live within our means and keep a tight rein on unnecessary spending. We have many ratepayers who simply cannot afford rate rises greater than the increase in their annual income. I will be advocating for rate increases no more than the rate of inflation but balancing this with the need to maintain adequate levels of core services.
Terry Sloan: Never is it an unrealistic aim, working with budgets you should always set yourself goals. The realism is that we have natural disasters to contend with coupled by requirements of central government legislation to be met. Councillors don't like rate increases any more than any other ratepayers, but there are certain things that just have to be done and you endeavor to do it in the most affordable way possible. If you don't maintain you will only pay more later.
Graeme Taylor: A good team of councillors will certainly be working towards low rate increase but we also must not forget the maintenance of our assets and infrastructure - we must not drop our current levels of service. Times are tough for our communities. This will be a balancing act.
Chris Wolfe: As a target an inflation based increase is a base point which must be tempered by honouring the incumbent council's ongoing commitments and any new business whilst keeping the ratepayer informed in plain English so that we all can understand the true financial situation of council and its impact on the Ratepayer. There's no point in aspiring to own a Rolls Royce if you can't afford the gas.
- The Marlborough Express