From the Mayor's Desk - 16 September 2019
I firstly want to acknowledge the difficult position all our residents are in at this time of unprecedented dry be they townspeople, contractors, businesses, graziers, farmers or irrigators. We really are where we have never been before.
I intend to use this Mayor’s Column to discuss some of the issues raised in a letter addressed to the General Manager, Warren Shire Council in last week’s Warren Weekly.
The recent ratepayers information booklet did contain an error where 2.3% was written instead of 2.7%. This was a staff clerical error. All that Council can do is apologise for that. There was no attempt to mislead. The draft budget figures and the adopted budget figures were correct. The draft budget was put on display for 28 days before it was adopted again containing the correct figures. No public comment was received.
There is no doubt that the table outlining grant funding was difficult to understand. A clearer table has been placed on Council’s website. Those whose names appear at the end of the letter will also receive the clearer table.
Council has made representation at every opportunity to State and Federal politicians and candidates seeking funding to offset the total 2.7% rate increase across the whole Shire. Representations were made to Kevin Humphries previous State Member for Barwon, Andrew Schier candidate for the State seat of Barwon, Roy Butler current Member for Barwon, Mark Coulton Federal Member for Parkes, Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW and through him Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government, Peter Primrose, Shadow Minister for Local Government, Linda Scott, President of Local Government NSW and the Orana Joint Organisation of Councils.
Although Council can make decisions on its own budgets, it has no influence on the budget process of other Councils. Warren Shire does have the support of our adjoining Councils in seeking funding to offset the 2.7% but our actions will not influence how other Councils determine their budget needs. Council will consider a future report from our finance section as to rating and the impacts of not taking or deferring rate increases on services.
It is worth noting that $129,000 deducted from the budget for 2019/2020 would mean that over the future ten year period, $1.29M would not be spent on infrastructure and services. Rural roads are our biggest expenditure area. Council at the time of framing the Budget felt that small increases were much more palatable than playing catch up at a later date with potentially larger rate increases as some of our neighbouring councils have done in the past.
Contrary to the letter in this newspaper, all of our neighbouring Orana and beyond rural Councils have adopted a 2.7% rate variation for 2019/2020.
Hardship provisions for ratepayers are easy to access and are not token provisions, again contrary to what is asserted in the letter. People should use these provisions if they require them. No financials are required. It is simply a matter of speaking to Council’s Manager of Finance and Administration and making a payment arrangement. I would be disappointed if a ratepayer had required assistance in this regard but had not sought assistance because of the incorrect information in last week’s letter. It would have been better for the writers of the letter to have sought clarification on hardship provisions prior to making a flippant comment.
A mayoral column a couple of weeks ago highlighted the difficulties Council was having with maintaining rural unsealed roads and effective edge grading of sealed roads during the current dry conditions. Since that time we have been offered water at three different locations to help with road works. At present we would prefer to be offered water for roads, rather than asking for it from landholders who may already be short of water.
I hope that this column addresses the issues raised in last week’s letter to the editor. All of your Councillors are ratepayers and no decision is taken lightly, particularly in the current circumstances.
The General Manager and I and indeed all Councillors are happy to listen to resident’s concerns. I believe meeting face to face is always the best way to understand and resolve issues. I invite anyone to contact Warren Shire Council to arrange a time to meet.
16th September 2019