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Councillor Column – 26 September 2023 – Councillor Greg Armstrong

Oct 3, 2023

For Immediate Release 26 September 2023
Authorised by Councillor Greg Armstrong

Over the past few weeks, I have received an increasing number of calls from people who are trying to understand just how much impact a Special Rate Variation (SRV) will have on them and what sequence of events have led to the possibility of the SRV.

While there is no single answer to the second part of this question, the least complex response is that Council operating expenditure has consistently exceeded operating income since its formation in 2016. The first part of the question must go unanswered as no increase percentages have been suggested. But some simple maths, based on Council sourced figures should give an idea of the magnitude.

The General Rate income for Hilltops Council is approx. $15 million, and the General Fund has a projected operating deficit (loss) of $6.2 million for the current financial year. The General Fund recorded a deficit (loss) of $6.7 million last financial year. These figures suggest that General Rate income has a potential need to rise to $21.2 million.

With inflation of 6% applied, this figure may be in the order $22.5 million.

I strongly urge everyone to make the effort and afford the time to attend at least one Hilltops Community Consultation Workshop so that they may better understand the background and context of a Special Rate Variation.

Community feedback is essential for Councillors to effectively gauge sentiment towards what seems to be a potentially major increase in the General Rate.

Of the five Community workshops I have attended so far, community participation/attendance figures have been patchy at best, and certainly not in keeping with expectations.

Please make the effort to attend the next meeting near you, listen to the presentations and have your say.

It is interesting to note that Bathurst Regional Council was also seeking community feedback in a similar SRV process, however, significant community push-back and extensive representation at community meetings saw the BRC abandon the process and the SRV.

Have a great weekend, stay safe and stay well.

Greg Armstrong