A question has been circulating on social media recently – Do you think you get good value from the money you spend on council rates?
Firstly it’s important to know that your rates are partly calculated based on the value of your land, as set by the Valuer General NSW. This means that changes in the local property market are reflected in Council’s rates model to ensure fairness and equity for ratepayers. When land valuations increase, the rates of individual ratepayers may go up or down, but Council’s total rates income does not change.
In addition, a fixed amount per property (base rate) is set by Council and is reflective of the rate type (residential, business, farmland or mining) and where you live. This information is published annually in Council’s Combined Delivery Program and Operational Plan.
Your Council aims to provide the best value for money services for our community while ensuring financial sustainability and seeking to maximise income where appropriate. For every dollar residents pay in rates and annual charges, Council matches it from other funding sources. Over the past five years Council has obtained over $75 million in grant funding for the community.
However the role of local government is changing and has come a long way since the days of roads, rates and rubbish. Today, we now fund many more services to meet our community’s needs and expectations. Some of these include:
- Parks, sports grounds, playgrounds and community halls;
- Libraries, arts and culture;
- Community development services for children, youth, older people, people living with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People;
- Public and environmental health;
- Environmental sustainability projects and invasive species management;
- Development services such as development applications and certifications;
- Transport services including roads, footpaths, car parks, road safety and traffic facilities;
- Business development, events and tourism;
- Land use and natural environmental planning;
- Stormwater and flood management;
- Emergency management;
- Community and council strategic planning;
- Executive, communication and support services
Council is also impacted by cost shifting from other levels of government, for example, a requirement to fund half of pensioner concessions and the transfer of responsibilities for some roads.
Like many NSW councils, Lithgow City Council is experiencing significant challenges in achieving long-term financial sustainability while continuing to provide agreed levels of service into the future. In 2019/20 Council plans to apply for a new Special Rate Variation of 4.23%.
If an application is successful, the impact on ratepayers in 2019/20 compared to what their rates would be if the current 4.77% SRV ceases, will be 9% plus the annual rate peg amount. The actual year-on-year increase will be on average around $1 per week for residential ratepayers.
An online Rates Calculator has been developed so that you can assess the impact that the proposed Special Rate Variation will have on your rates – go to the Special Rate Variation site on www.haveyoursay.lithgow.com and click on Rates Calculator.