Following recent Community Engagement Sessions conducted throughout the Dungog Shire regarding the Special Rate Variation an independent community reference panel has now been appointed and met for the first of three meetings on Tuesday 4th April, 2018. I am a member of the Community Reference panel. Part of the purpose of the panel is to provide broad information and feedback to the community about the work and outcomes of the panel. A brief report of this meeting follows:
The panel were given an in-depth appraisal as to the current financial position of the Council addressing the main issues, infrastructure backlog, the wooden bridges issue and the state of the roads.
Acting General Manager, Shaun Chandler, told the group that Dungog Shire Council had been found to be unfit during the original Fit for the Future process, which measured councils against seven benchmarks. These benchmarks were to be met by 2020. Council has been given the opportunity to be reassessed on these seven benchmarks and, in order to be found fit, must be meeting or trending toward meeting these benchmarks by 2026-27. Council must also be seen to be improving its operations.
In order to trend towards or meet these benchmarks and improve council’s positions changes must be made.
Currently we do not meet six out of seven of the benchmarks.
We are not spending what we need to on asset renewal, therefore maintenance costs are soaring.
The current rate peg is 1.5%, and yet operational costs such as materials, emergency services and insurance are rising at much higher rates.
Electricity costs alone have risen by nearly 20%.
Shaun outlined the steps Council and Councillors are making to improve our position, to compliment a special rates variation. These include
resource sharing and joint contract negotiations and regional procurement through our association with Hunter Councils,
actively pursuing grant revenue,
extending the life of our landfill through our recycling efforts, energy efficiency
discussions with neighboring councils about strategic alliances to grow our capacity.
Council intends to apply for a percentage rate rise per year for seven years. This means that the fixes to our infrastructure will take longer and it will be a slower process to get ourselves in a better position. However, it will also mean that the impost to rate-payers will be more sustainable.
Greg from Morrison and Low, who is assisting Council with its ten-year financial plan, showed us a couple of scenarios with various levels of rates rises. These scenarios show us either making the benchmarks or trending towards them by 2026-27. Please note that if we’re making these benchmarks then we are definitely improving our position and seeing improvements in infrastructure backlog. We are spending more money on renewing assets and replacing our wooden bridge network.
At our next meeting, Infrastructure and Assets Manager, Steve Hitchens, will present on what the various scenarios will mean for works on the ground. This way we can get a better idea as a group of the optimum level of rates rise, which is both affordable and effective
For more information regarding the special rate variation, reports presented at the community engagement sessions and a special rate variation calculator head to the Dungog Shire Council Website www.dungog.nsw.gov.au
President – Dungog District Chamber of Commerce