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Last-minute leap in rates

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Carterton’s proposed rates for next year have risen further overnight – with Carterton District Council yesterday signing off on its draft Long Term Plan (LTP) and consultation document with an average increase of 9.4 per cent.

The council announced a planned 8.4 per cent increase last week – the highest in the region – but council auditors then raised an issue with calculations.

This will come as a blow to medium value urban ratepayers, who were already facing the highest rate increases in the region, and will now have to fork out a proposed additional 10.4 per cent, or $6.30 per week, in rates in 2018/19.

Council chief executive Jane Davis confirmed one of the “headline issues” with the plan involved adjustments in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday’s meeting to depreciation calculations for the proposed $4.2 million water treatment project.

“Initially our calculation method differed to audit’s preferred method.

“When the preferred method was used it resulted in a different outcome to the original calculations.”

Mayor John Booth said he was “disappointed”, rather than embarrassed, about the last-minute adjustments but was still confident in the work his council had done.

“It’s disappointing to see a rate rise in the urban area of that level but it is specific to something.

“I don’t want to see Carterton with a [water treatment] system in place that a council in the future will have a massive cost to upgrade.”

Ron Shaw of lobby group Wairarapa Voice was present at Tuesday’s meeting and said although the figure would not be significant enough to qualify for discussion at a council with a larger ratepayer base, the last-minute change was “embarrassing” and big enough for a small council to worry about.

“The council gets a big tick for infrastructure and a big tick for consultation,” Mr Shaw said.

“But there’s a minus for lack of economic development and innovative services and it’s embarrassing for a change this late in the piece.

“They have slipped twice with missing the deadline for the release of documents and then a last-minute change which shouldn’t have sprung out this late.”

Mr Booth said ratepayers could have confidence in the numbers in the plan.

“Our auditors were clear that they are very happy with the final information and how the plan will be presented to the community.

“They noted that starting a financial model from scratch is a complex process and takes time.

“Audit also noted that council is in a far better position to produce accurate financial information than it was three years ago.”

The different outcome in calculations amounted to $130,000, which across Carterton’s small ratepayer base of 5000, had a significant impact on rates.

Residents will have plenty of opportunity to voice any concerns to councillors in the coming weeks, with council planning numerous informal events around town as part of the consultation process.

“We’re not going to hide behind any curtains,” Mr Booth said.

“We’re going to be out in public and will answer any questions people have.”

The public consultation period will be open for four weeks with submissions closing midday, May 23.

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