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Council Column – 9 March 2021 – Councillor Greg Armstrong

Mar 9, 2021

When I was a child my mother used to remind me that we should be thankful for small mercies – the release and distribution of the various COVID-19 vaccines is one very great mercy that promises us some significant return of pre COVID-19 normality to our daily lives. While the vaccine is only one measure in controlling the virus, it will reduce pressure on our medical system and afford those people who are directly involved in managing the problem, a level of protection which has not been attainable since the first outbreak. I believe that it is the duty of all Australians to be vaccinated, for the safety of themselves, their families and everyone who may come into contact with person, place or thing, so contaminated by the virus. This is certainly a case of everyone needing to share in the heavy lifting, so I urge everyone to get the jab when it is your turn.

Council is continuing its work on the mandatory Rates Harmonisation between the former local government areas of Young, Harden and Boorowa. This process does not increase the gross general revenue raised by rates, but seeks to spread the rate burden in an equitable manner and harmonise the different rating categories that existed in the former Councils rating structures.

In practical terms, some landholders will see a reduction in general rates while others may see an increase. The only common denominator in this process is Unimproved Land Value as determined by the NSW Valuer General. The disparities in land valuation levels across all classes of land use are being examined and financial models have been developed to ensure that there is equity in terms of pre-harmonisation and post-harmonisation rating levels. This is a complicated process which must also consider issues such as service availability and capacity to pay. Councillors have already been provided with two opportunities to be part of the workshopping process so that they may be better informed of the process and progress. Council’s consultants will be providing further details as the project moves forward, along with community consultation and engagement sessions.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the financial reports for the 2019-2020 Financial Year and the operating result before Contributions for Capital works. There can be little doubt that Hilltops Council has not been performing well in a financial sense with operating results (before Grants and Contributions for Capital Works) of Deficit $16.975 Million for the period 13 May 2016 to 30 June 2017 ( in Administration ) , Deficit $4.393 Million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, Deficit $7.473 Million for the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 and a draft Deficit of $10.145 Million for the 2019-2020 Financial Year. Of note is the 2020-2021 forecast deficit of $6.64 million as at the December 2020 Quarterly Budget Review. Needless to say these results are not good and must be improved over time.

Stay safe and stay well

Greg Armstrong