Maitland 60% rate rise possible

MAITLAND rates bills could jump by close to 60 per cent over the next seven years, options in a Maitland City Council report have revealed.
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The council is seeking public feedback on potential rate rises in a campaign that has flagged increases that would eclipse Lake Macquarie’s 55per cent rate hike over seven years.

Maitland council’s general manager David Evans said the figures included in the report were only guides to how much maintaining, improving or reducing services would hit ratepayers and no final proposals were ready yet.

But all three scenarios, including a cut to services, would involve rates going up by some margin.

A 7.25per cent or $89 bump for the average ratepayer every year for seven years would allow services to stay at their existing levels, the report showed, while a $35 rise every year would require service cuts.

An 8.95per cent rise, adding $116 to the average annual rates bill, would allow for expanded services.

If that option was approved, the Maitland rate rise would eclipse Lake Macquarie’s controversial 55per cent rates jump over seven years, introduced in June last year.

Mr Evans emphasised the report’s figures were not firm plans.

He said the council would develop more detailed plans after gauging ratepayer sentiment.

‘‘These figures have no formal status,’’ Mr Evans said.

‘‘We are asking people to have a look at what [maintaining or growing services] means.’’

A Maitland City Council document on the potential rate application shows the city’s rates are the second-

lowest in the Lower Hunter at an average $986 this financial year.

This compares to Newcastle $1051, Lake Macquarie $1141 and Cessnock $1064. Only Port Stephens ($950) is cheaper.

Mayor Peter Blackmore said the consultation, which would be assessed in any bid to raise rates above the state-imposed cap, would clarify exactly what ratepayers wanted.

‘‘It’s a genuine attempt to reach out and ask the community and gauge their reaction,’’ he said.

Cr Blackmore said he expected most councils would be under pressure and seeking relief through rates in the next few years.

‘‘I have no doubt whatsoever that almost all local government areas are going to be making an application [for higher rate rises],’’ Cr Blackmore said.

The engagement program will assess residents’ sentiments about the council’s funding options, service levels and provide information on its financial state.

Deputy mayor Brian Burke said a 12-page Funding Our Future brochure would go to all residents detailing how each option would change the city and advising them how they could contribute their opinions.

Cr Burke said he believed it would give residents a clear insight into pressures on Maitland due to ongoing growth and cost-shifting.

‘‘All these costs associated with running the city are rising along with everyone’s household ones,’’ Cr Burke said.

‘‘It’s a bit of a reality check and what we’re saying is sit down, read it and tell us what you want.’’

Councillors will discuss the consultation at tonight’s meeting.

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