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Rates rise lower than forecast

Carterton District Council offices. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Marcus Anselm

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District councillors in Carterton have signed off on a lower than forecast rates rise for 2020/21, but cash reserves will take a hit.

Ratepayers in the Wairarapa district will now see an average rates increase of 1.72 per cent, more than two percentage points lower than initially forecast.

The reduction in rates rises comes from council officers re-forecasting, and dipping into the district general reserves.

According to the annual plan document, cash reserves of more than $7 million are projected to drop to slightly more than $1 million to accommodate the limits on the rates rise.

“We’re confident that the plan will enable us to continue to deliver a high level and cost-effective service our residents are used to, while taking into account the financial hardship many will be feeling post-lockdown,” chief executive Jane Davis said.

The council resolved not to seek public consultation on its annual plan as, in its opinion, there was minimal change to the long-term plan.

The finalised plan focuses on existing projects such as the town’s sewage plant upgrade and contains no new projects.

Councillors will look to get into the community over the next few months to gauge residents’ feelings on the long-term plan ahead of consultation next year.

They will also garner opinions for the Wairarapa regional recovery plan, a combined road map with South Wairarapa and Masterton districts for the covid-19 aftermath.

“We’re excited to continue working with our community as we develop a recovery plan and work towards our long-term goals,” Mayor Greg Lang said.

“We’ve been actively communicating with residents over the past few months and have already heard some great suggestions.

These conversations will give us more opportunity to hear what our residents think the district needs in the coming years so we can continue to be a resilient and thriving district.”

Councillors agreed that the move to use council surpluses was a sensible move after the covid-19 lockdown.

“If there’s ever a year to rely on the surpluses from the past, this is the year to do it,” councillor Russell Keys said at yesterday’s meeting.

“It’s unprecedented times, and it’s raining, it’s pouring at the moment, and this is the time to do it.”

The draft plan anticipates an operating deficit of $18,861 by June 2021, compared to the surplus of $1,099,118 projected in the long-term plan.

At yesterday’s meeting, Davis acknowledged council staff, who have agreed on a salary freeze for the next 12 months.

Davis is donating part of her salary for the next year to a local small business fund.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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