City councillors debate rates increase

The proposed Invercargill rates increase of 0.43 per cent could be too good to be true as councillors lean towards setting up a "fighting fund".

However, the city council will put the proposal out for public consultation before making any final decisions.

Councillors at the finance and policy committee meeting last night debated the draft rates increase, but many thought the council should be reserving money for the multitude of issues they look set to face.

The proposed increase does not take into account the issues surrounding Anderson Park, the Scottish Hall, Kennington sewerage or the possibility the council may have to invest millions of dollars into cleaning its storm water.

Councillor Lindsay Thomas, who has been vocal about his concerns that the council would be left vulnerable because of the low increase, was backed up by several councillors who thought a "fighting fund" would be necessary.

Councillor Graham Sycamore said it would be prudent to have a fund set aside to deal with the challenges the council will be facing this year.

"I am not trying to push the savings up but I just wonder whether it wouldn't be prudent to make a lump sum to set aside.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt echoed his sentiment.

"I like the idea of setting up a small fighting fund."

But Cr Alan Dennis said the fund would not be small.

"To put away money that is meaningful, it's going to have to be a big pot of money."

Committee chairman Neil Boniface agreed, but he said the council already had strategies in place to deal with the issues that had not been taken into account in the draft rates increase.

Anderson Park Art Gallery could be covered by the $460,000 in the parks department's reserves and the Scottish Hall was also taken into account, he said.

"There is a fund that will be available to certainly cover that [the Scottish Hall] in the short term," adding that the issue would be discussed in the public excluded part of the meeting.

As for concerns surrounding earthquake prone buildings, Mr Boniface said it was a big issue that all councils would have to face and there was still "a big question mark" around it.

He said the council had to be careful it was not building up reserves from the pockets of today's ratepayers that would be used by future generations instead. However, he conceded the council did not "want to be caught short".

The committee unanimously adopted the recommendation that the draft increase be included in the draft annual plan for public consultation.

The Southland Times