Rate increase delivers maintenance, infrastructure, budget benefits
Last modified on 29 November 2023
Increased public area maintenance, and a stronger Council budget with greater capacity to renew community assets and infrastructure, will be among the benefits of a Willoughby City Council rate rise decision.
At its meeting on 27 November 2023, Council selected a 15% increase as its preferred rate rise option for 2024/25, which includes the NSW Government rate peg of 5%.
Council also voted to exhibit a revised Long Term Financial Plan 2023-2033 (LTFP) and Delivery Program 2022-26 which reflects this rate increase.
The proposed rate increase will assist Council to:
- Recover from the financial impacts of high inflation outstripping Council’s average rates by 15.3% between 2021 and 2023;
- Continue to deliver highly-valued services to the community;
- Increase Council’s ability to absorb future financial, extreme weather and growth shocks; and
- Provide capacity to maintain and renew community assets.
The proposed rate rise will allow Council to allocate an additional $2 million a year in additional cleaning, care and beautification projects in parks, cycling and walking routes and town centres, and for tree planting and maintenance programs.
The rate increase would result in average residential rates rising by $163.15 in 2024/25, or $3.14 a week. Average business rates in the Chatswood Town Centre area would increase by $1,170.42 in 2024/25 or $22.51 a week, while average business rates outside the Chatswood Town Centre would increase by in $978.56 in 2024/25, or $18.82 a week.
Following this one-off rate increase in 2024/25, rates would rise in line with the NSW Government rate peg in future years.
Council will now commence preparing a Special Rate Variation application to the NSW Government in line with the preferred rate rise. The application will need to be approved at a Council meeting scheduled for 30 January 2024, before being lodged with the NSW Government.
Willoughby Mayor Tanya Taylor said Council’s 27 November 2023 decision followed extensive engagement with the community on four rate rise options between September-November 2023, under the promotional banner Securing Willoughby’s Future.
“Council ensured any decision on the rate rise options was well-informed by extensive awareness-raising and engagement,” Mayor Taylor said.
“Nearly half of Willoughby’s residents said they were aware of the options, which is well above average awareness levels across other Sydney councils, and there was strong overall support for a special rate increase.”
Around 1,900 people filled out a Have Your Say survey and more than 400 responses were gathered to a separate representative survey which was designed to represent the gender and age characteristics of the Willoughby adult population.
Some 64% of respondents to the Have Your Say survey, and 74% to the representative survey, selected a special rate increase of at least 12% as their highest ranked option.
Mayor Taylor said, in selecting a preferred 15% rate rise, Council also voted to ensure that clear and accessible information was available about options available to ratepayers having difficulty paying their rates.
“While Council currently has one of Sydney’s lowest percentage of outstanding rates, we want to make sure people are aware of our hardship policy and options should they need it,” Mayor Taylor said.
Council is required to amend the LTFP and Delivery Program 2022-2026, if it intends to proceed with a SRV application to the NSW Government.
The revised LTFP illustrates how the rate increase will influence Council’s ten-year financial forecast, by delivering average annual surpluses of $4.77m between 2024/25 and 2032/33. These surpluses will allow Council to withstand future financial shocks and, if these shocks do not eventuate, instead use these surpluses for community services and projects.
The LTFP also confirms that Council will be seeking to deliver a $2m efficiency target as part of the development of its 2024/25 Operational Plan, which will be met through savings, efficiencies and new non-rate revenue.
This target reflects a continuation of Council’s existing approach to run an efficient operation and has also been designed to reduce the impact of any rate increase on ratepayers.
Without this $2m target, Willoughby’s rate rise would need to be 3.7% higher (equivalent to $40 for the average residential ratepayer).
The Delivery Program 2022-26 is proposed to be amended to state that, as part of the implementation of the rate rise, Council will:
- Increase annual programs for street tree maintenance and tree planting
- Apply additional resources to maintenance, cleaning and beautification of parks, cycling and walking routes and town centres
- Facilitate a volunteer ParkCare program for community involvement in our local parks
Consultation on the LTFP and Delivery Program 2022-26 commences on Thursday 30 November 2023 and closes on 14 January 2023. Feedback will be reported to a Council meeting to be held on 30 January 2024.
Find out more at www.haveyoursaywilloughby.com.au