Low Harvey rates increase, big projects in budget

David CharlesworthHarvey-Waroona Reporter

Spirited debate heralded the adoption of Harvey Shire Council’s 2018/19 Budget last Tuesday, with rates set to rise 2.5 per cent.

Councillors debated the rise, proposed in the draft budget at 3.5 per cent, which was lowered after council staff found an expenses duplication during the review process.

A motion was put forward by Cr Craig Carbone to hold off adoption of the budget until the next meeting and look at setting the rise back to 3.5 per cent to be better prepared for infrastructure demands and wider economic impacts.

Cr Carbone cited the shortfall in funding experienced by the Brunswick River Cottages development, which cut back on stage 2 after receiving less than applied for in State aged care grants.

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“I’m sure one per cent in rates would go a long way to providing those four lease-for-life units,” he said.

He also noted that while the State Treasury Consumer Price Index was set at a low of 0.9 per cent, there was no guarantee it would not change in the next 12 months and have an economic impact.

“There’s nothing to stop that going through the roof next year,” he said.

Cr Bill Adams spoke against the motion and said the proposed 2.5 per cent rise was already sustainable and the council would adjust rates to the economic climate in the next budget.

“We found some money, give the ratepayer a fair go,” he said. “If we have to go up next year, so be it.”

Councillor Amanda Lovitt said 3.5 per cent was a reasonable figure and was considered so when the draft was put forward, the extra funding would ensure all projects in the budget could be fulfilled.

Councillor Anita Shortland said it was councillors responsibility to reduce the burden on ratepayers, and 2.5 per cent was the lowest rate that was also financially responsible.

The motion was voted down and the original recommendation of 2.5 per cent was passed.

Shire president Tania Jackson said the final document gave the community the lowest possible rates rise but also planned significant road and infrastructure programs while putting money in the council reserves.

“This year is able to achieve a number of things in the future we may not have been able to so with such a low increase as that,” Cr Jackson said.

Other aspects of the budget outlined in the draft were unchanged, including the 7 per cent discount for upfront payment of rates, a two per cent rise in garbage collection rates and minimum rates increased by 2.5 per cent to $1043.

The budget also included construction of a Yarloop Community Centre, Binningup Fire Station, stage 2 of the Brunswick River Cottages, stage 2 of the Urban Forest Project, an Australind State Emergency Services Station and upgrades to both the Harvey Recreation and Cultural Centre and Leschenault Leisure Centre.

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