Council sets lowest rates rise in years
New Plymouth ratepayers are facing their lowest rate increase in years.
A 2.15 per cent rates increase was given a big tick by New Plymouth District councillors last night after nearly 24 hours of annual plan meetings.
And all but two councillors were patting each other on the back.
Although the long-term plan had originally set the rates increase at 6.6 per cent, this council's first proposal was a 2.8 per cent increase, but it included the controversial plan to borrow $2.8 million.
Last night's council meeting accepted a 2.15 per cent increase, with no borrowing and a $9.1m release from the Perpetual Investment Fund.
However, councillors Len Houwers and Richard Handley believed the near-record outcome was not quite good enough.
Handley wanted the release from the PIF to be lowered to $7.5m to make the fund more sustainable and Houwers wanted the rates to be further brought down to match his campaign promise of 2 per cent.
But his plea fell on deaf ears. Last night the council voted to approve a budget of $120,000 to complete a detailed design and obtain a resource consent for a sea wall at Onaero.
The erosion on the Onaero coastline had been a problem for decades and was worsening every month.
The $120,000 was added to the rates bill, but Houwers believed something else had to come out of council's budgets to make up for it.
"Do we have to go through this line by line? Something needs to drop off the bottom," he said.
He said council officers should be able to find the money in other budgets and suggested trimming the fat off the roading budget.
Earlier in the night the council did just that when it came to giving money to the Taranaki District Health Board. Since 2011 the council has been giving the health board $18,000 a year to assist with oral health education. The $18,000 used to be spent on putting fluoride in the water, but when council decided to remove the chemical in 2011 they elected to give the money straight to the health board.
Councillor Gordon Brown called the $18,000 "guilt money" and Councillor John McLeod called for the contribution to be removed and the money used to lower the cost of rates.
"Oral healthcare is not New Plymouth District Council's business, it is the responsibility of the health board and I don't see why the ratepayers of this district should be fronting up with the cash," he said.
His concerns were echoed by many councillors around the table and they elected to remove the yearly donation to the health board.
However, this created further problems with Brown proposing to reintroduce fluoride into the town's water supply. Many new councillors had not yet had the chance to lobby for fluoride and this was a starting point for them, he said.
This created instant uproar among long-standing councillors who said the matter had been debated thoroughly and the council had already chosen to unanimously remove fluoride from the water.
Deputy Mayor Heather Dodunski said it was the wrong time to ask for such a report and if the matter needed to be debated again then that would be during the long term plan hearings next year.
The full council will ratify the final rates increases on June 24.
BY THE NUMBERS
Average residential rates:
NPDC rates increases:
2008: 14.5 per cent
2009: 9.1 per cent
2010: 9.6 per cent
2011: 5.0 per cent
2012: 5.5 per cent
2013: 4.8 per cent
2014: 2.15 per cent
Taranaki Daily News