Hawkesbury Council moves towards 22.5 per cent rate rise over three years

It is not set in stone, but Hawkesbury Council has indicated it will seek a 22.5 per cent rates rise (above the rate peg level) over three years, and will take this position to community consultation. Picture Jesse Marlow
It is not set in stone, but Hawkesbury Council has indicated it will seek a 22.5 per cent rates rise (above the rate peg level) over three years, and will take this position to community consultation. Picture Jesse Marlow

HAWKESBURY Council has indicated it wants to raise rates by 22.5 per cent above rate pegging over three years.

Over the past few months, Hawkesbury Council has hosted various town meetings trying to win public support for a Special Rate Variation.

The meetings featured three different rates options, with the highest, otherwise known as ‘Option 3’, calling for a 22.5 per cent rate rise above rate pegging over the years.

At the September 12 Council meeting, councilors voted 7-5 to adopt ‘Option 3’ as Council’s preferred position.

The Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett voted in favour of it, as did councillors Rasmussen, Ross, Garrow, Wheeler, Calvert and Kotlash.

Councillors Richards, Tree, Conolly, Zamprogno and Reynolds voted against it.

In total, rates would rise 31.3 per cent over the three years, or 22.5 per cent above rate pegging.

Council wants the extra rates to deliver more services and repair more Council assets such as roads.

The next step is for Council to ‘publicly exhibit’ its decision and take on board community feedback.

The Council report said 23 per cent of Hawkesbury residents surveyed by phone supported ‘Option 3’.

Liberal councillor Patrick Conolly spoke against labelling ‘Option 3’ as Council’s preferred one.

“I am not in favour of option 3. this community cannot afford option 3,” he said.

“The community overwhelmingly says we are not willing to pay that much.”

Deputy Mayor and Labour councillor Barry Calvert said Council was not locked into pursuing Option 3 as a result of the vote.

“We have looked at this whole situation, consulted with the whole community and after doing that we think Option 3 might be the preferred way to go,” he said.

“This doesn't tie us to Option 3, it just says this is our preferred option.”

Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler said a SRV was necessary.

“Our staff have worked extremely hard to cut costs,” she said.

“The community has repeatedly told us that they are sick of business as usual.”

Independent councillor Paul Rasmussen said he had opposed SRVs for a long time, but Council simply needed more rates to deliver the services it needed to.

“It seems to me that going through this process, we have been making savings and becoming more efficient but you can only do so much.”

Cr Conolly was also upset Council was making this decision, two weeks before a report was due before Council regarding its ability to meet it Fit for the Future proposal.

“Council engaged a consultant to conduct a review our financial position so we could go to the community and show them we have tried everything before asking for a tax hike,” he said.

“Despite the review costing thousands of dollars, Council moved ahead...without having even received the report.”