Cycle trail adds to need for rates hike

The costs involved in building the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail has contributed to a proposed district rate increase of 3.7 per cent in the Southland District Council's draft annual plan.

The council met yesterday to approve the draft.

The increase is lower than the 5 per cent projected in the council's long-term plan.

A report to council from staff says the reasons for increasing rates include financial commitments to the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail and viaducts project.

The increase would be less than expected because of cost savings made by council, reduction of the regional heritage rate, and increased forestry payouts, the report says. The council charges rates in three different ways, depending on what area a ratepayer lives in, and what services each ratepayer requires.

The district rate is the only rate which is the same for all ratepayers, while local rates and service rates vary across the district.

Council group manager of services and assets Bede Carran said that made it difficult to calculate the average rates cost for all ratepayers, but ratepayers could look up their local and service rate changes in the draft annual plan.

After the meeting, transactional accountant Jamie Cunningham said "most" of the local rates had been reduced.

Carran told the council the draft plan includes a projected operating deficit of $510,000, down from the $1.7m predicted deficit in the long- term plan.

Councillors had not proposed to borrow any money, which meant there had been no external interest costs, Carran said.

The council will send all ratepayers a summary document which explains the key items in the draft annual plan.

Submissions will close on May 9 and hearings are scheduled for June 5 and 6.

The council hopes to adopt the final plan on June 25.


The Southland Times