THE Derwent Valley Council budget for the 2012/13 financial year was approved at last week's council meeting, carried by a majority of eight votes to one. As I had expressed in earlier council workshops, councillors had not done enough to reduce expenditure and avoid the forecast 5% increase in rates for the next year. As a last resort I proposed that councillors take a 20% cut in their allowances in order to bring the rates rise down to 4.5% but that also failed.
These are my speech notes from the meeting:
"Mr Mayor, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of all council staff involved in the preparation of this budget. I am not satisfied with this budget but that is not the fault of the staff. At a time of ever increasing costs for water, electricity, fuel and other essentials, I cannot support the proposed 5% rating increase.
"Mr Mayor, not only have councillors failed to rein in expenditure, we are also requested to approval additional expenses in tonight's agenda, possibly adding a further $14,000 that is not budgeted for, as well as a blank cheque for the RAFT partnership agreement.
"Six months ago this council adopted a similar blank cheque approach to the former business enterprise centre, now called the Carinya Education Park. This was stated to be at a minimal cost, which has turned out to be more than $19,000 in half a year, while the income received was about $1800.
"The 5% rates increase is not necessary Mr Mayor. For example, it is not necessary to re-seal a short dead-end laneway to highway width, and some footpath reconstruction could have been delayed.
"In response to our failure to cut our costs, I have proposed that councillors request a 20% reduction in their allowances. Unfortunately this proposal has been shunted to a closed meeting away from public scrutiny.
"On the whole, Tasmanian councils have managed lower increases than that proposed tonight. One council to our north has even introduced a $20 rate rebate."
Here is a list of this year's rate rises around Tasmania, which I will add to as the information becomes available. Please note that not all are directly comparable due to different systems in use at various councils:
Huon Valley 4.8%
Derwent Valley 5%