Hamilton Mayor proposes 12 per cent rates rise
Hamilton homeowners may have to pay an extra $250 to balance the city's books under a shock rates hike proposed by the mayor.
Councillors will on Thursday debate Mayor Andrew King's suggested 12 per cent rates rise after he proposed it at a marathon Hamilton City Council meeting on Tuesday.
He urged councillors to say yes to the increase for the 2017/2018 financial year, but questions were still coming not long before midnight.
Because it was late, the decision was put off until Thursday, when councillors will hear more about whether the rise could be spread over more than a year.
If council sticks with the current strategy of raising rates by 3.8 per cent each year, the average rates bill would go up about $80.
A 12 per cent increase would have a $253 effect.
Overall, that would bring council an estimated extra $11.7m, those in the meeting heard.
There's only so far council can stretch its dollars, especially in a growing city, chief executive Richard Briggs said.
"To do everything we want to do - and I'm emphasising the word want - it requires us to spend more money than we have," he said.
"If we'd known the level of growth in 2012 we probably all would have agreed at the time that our rates were too low."
Now, council is forecast to be about $12m behind where it should have been in the 2018/2019 financial year.
A $7m surplus was forecast but the city now faces a deficit of $5m.
Several councillors asked whether a rates rise could be spread over two or more years.
One of those asking was Councillor Dave Macpherson, who noted the political risk to councillors.
"There's the issue of turkeys not wanting to vote for an early Christmas... Does council want to take the political risk of a rating increase that's so high?"
King argued that the risk would increase if councillors didn't act, and urged them to be bold with the rates move.
"It's a one-off, it puts our books back where it should be and it puts us in a position where we can do targeted rates on other things," he said.
"This is the chance to make our books look good, put our books back where they should be, where we said they would be in the 10-Year Plan, two years ago."
But the "how can we get more money so we can do more things" approach didn't sit well with Councillor Garry Mallett.
"We have worked on what I think is a false premise, that everything we do now we have to keep doing."
The exhausted faces Councillor Angela O'Leary saw in the council chamber prompted her to suggest moving the rest of the discussion to Thursday.
Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher agreed, noting that not all councillors had been able to stay and they needed the "full deck of cards" to make an important decision.
"Trust me, even [an increase of] eight or nine per cent is going to be a significant hit for some of our ratepayers."