Council fails to tame rates

Hamilton City Council with Mayor Andrew King in the chair proposed a 9.5 per cent rates increase for the next two years in the new 10 year plan for the city.

A massive rates rise for Hamilton looks like being spread across two years after five days of intensive debate by councillors of a new 10-year plan for the city. If the plan survives public input ratepayers will be hit by a 9.5 per cent rise each year for two years.

The plan debate started with a proposal on the table for a 15.5 per cent rates hike. While discussing projects for the city, councillors looked for ways to trim the increase and were caught off guard on Wednesday evening when the council number crunchers showed a 16 per cent rates rise would be needed to balance the books.

Councillors made a hurried attempt to revoke and push back projects such as Garden Place from the 10 year plan, but the votes were not there to overturn them. At that stage a 75 per cent majority vote would have been needed to change earlier decisions.

It will be part of a draft long-term plan which will go out for public consultation early in 2018 and if signed off, it will take effect in the 2018/19 financial year.

Mayor Andrew King said the budget is now in the community's hands.

"After three or four long marathon days, this is about putting it out to the community so they can understand the true cost of trying to run our city," Mr King said.

"All along the end game here was to get it out in front of the public so it can get feedback from the public.

"What I want for Hamilton is strong and sound sustainable books going forward from here."

Councillor Dave Macpherson suggested a 9.5 per cent increase for two years, and then going back to 3.8 per cent increases which was voted through to ease the pressure on ratepayers.

The second year's increase could be reduced if the council can get a proposed regional fuel tax implemented.

"A very large rates increase of 16 per cent in one hit is an extreme situation for our ratepayers to handle," Mr Macpherson said.

"I think the load should be spread but not so far that it goes into the life of the next council.

"The second 9.5 has a chance that it can be reduced further but that is the worse possible scenario that we will stay with the 9.5."

Councillor James Casson wants to see the results of public consultation.
Hamilton City Council with Mayor Andrew King in the chair proposed a 9.5 per cent rates increase for the next two years in the new 10 year plan for the city.
"I'm hoping that every one of the councillors sitting around the table will listen to those ratepayers," Mr Casson said.

"If they overwhelmingly do not want something to go ahead then I am hoping we will listen to them and vote that out.

"I am pretty disappointed that we have go to this point where the rates have got to 16 per cent."

Councillor Rob Pascoe said spreading the rates over the two years would help due to the immediate change to capital value in 2018/19.

"It also provides an opportunity to phase in the regional fuel tax if we are successful in having this new stream of income," Mr Pascoe said.

"I think it will be really important to put in the consultation document that the regional fuel tax will be an adjustment to rates."

Councillor Paula Southgate said the rates rise has come as a huge surprise to the public along with the immediate change to capital value.

"Many many people will not get that average rates increase. Many people will get more, much more," Ms Southgate said.

"Yes we know that our rates are lower Now up to public to have say on rates

than some other centres and yes we need to do something about it if we want to fund some of our community assets.

"I am not happy with some of the very big and expensive projects that have come to the table and pushed out other existing ideas that the public were already aware of.

"A regional fuel tax will still hit people in their pockets. We don't know how successful it will be, we are taking a punt."

Councillor Siggi Henry said she was looking forward to the public consultation.

"Nothing is in concrete, they have a say and we will listen."

Councillor Garry Mallett said he was disappointed the budget was being balanced on the backs of the ratepayers. "I'm looking forward to hearing the response of the community. It will be interesting and I am looking forward to the rest of this process," Mr Mallett said.

Deputy mayor Martin Gallagher wants to now engage with the public and encourages the public to get involved.

"If you want stuff to survive you come here for two reasons, one of course you are concerned about the rates increase and your ability to pay for that. All projects are still up there for consultation so if you are passionate for a particular project come and let us hear your views."

Councillor Geoff Taylor was disappointed in the council and himself.

"I don't think I've done a good enough job and I think I made some mistakes in the earlier days. I've tried strenuously today to save a few dollars," Mr Taylor said. "I do feel 9.5 is unacceptable and 16 per cent is a whole other word altogether."

Councillor Leo Tooman said the proposal is going to be a huge shock to the community.

"I would go far to say that some of these projects I think are just a shopping list," Mr Tooman said.

Councillor Angela O'Leary said the priority to her in the budget is the people. "Fundamentally it is the priorities in this budget which have been built since March which I am opposed to," Ms O'Leary said.

Councillor Mark Bunting said the people of Hamilton can now play their part.

"Keep letting us know what is important to us and go for it with the public submission," Mr Bunting said.

"I am exactly like Geoff and Leo where I am disappointed we did not get it down."

Councillors voted 8-4 for two years of 9.5 per cent rate increases.

Those in favour were King, Gallagher and councillors Henry, Bunting, Casson, Mallett, Macpherson and Pascoe.

Those opposed were councillors O'Leary, Southgate, Taylor and Tooman.

From the Hamilton News