COUNCIL voted on Thursday night to proceed with an application to increase rates by 8 per cent.
Council can now apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to increase rates by 4.6 per cent above the 3.4 per cent rate pegging limit.
The proposed increase in rates would cost the average ratepayer about $70 per year.
It would provide an additional $2.3 million, to be allocated toward road and path renewal projects in the coming financial year.
IPART is not expected to advise council of its final decision on the rate variation until early June.
Council will exhibit the delivery program and operational plan with two separate scenarios; one with an eight per cent increase and another with a 3.4 per cent increase, as part of the 2013/14 budget.
Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash, said staff would undertake further comprehensive community engagement before council makes its final decision to set the 2013/14 rates.
“Council is facing increasing financial pressure stemming primarily from a $37 million infrastructure maintenance backlog,” Cr Gash said.
“It has got to the point that the state of our roads is having an ongoing negative impact on the local economy.
“In coming into council, I made a commitment to fixing the area’s roads and we will not shy away from that.”
“While the roads and pathways are in dire need of additional funding, council also faces the issue of increasing deficits unless expenditure is reduced,” Cr Gash said.
“Council is currently undertaking and examining a number of internal options to help in reducing these forecast deficits.”
General manager Russ Pigg said the issue of council considering above rate pegging increases was difficult.
“Council must weigh up the competing factors of the community’s capacity to pay versus the flagging condition of infrastructure,” he said.
Councillor Andrew Guile has opposed the rate hike, arguing the community did not have the capacity to pay that amount and that council did not have the staff to complete the works it currently has on its books.
“More than two thirds of the submissions received by council opposed the rate rise, calling on us to live within our means in our spending throughout the city,” Cr Guile said.
“On top of some of these detailed submissions that criticise the rise, we have also had petitions with literally hundreds of signatures showing further opposition.
“It is clear that there is community resistance to the whole proposal with even those submissions supporting the increase doing so on a qualified basis.
“If they were to get the program of works that they wanted, then they were broadly supportive but this still amounts to only marginal support.
“A deputation from the Bay and Basin community member Tony Blain, who organised the petition, evoked some lip service from some councillors on the cost of living issues.
“However, when it came to voting to go ahead with the application for the increase, it became obvious the appeals fell on deaf ears.
“It was earlier revealed that the costs of other council fees and charges have also been proposed to rise steeply, particularly in waste and water.
“It was only after my intervention that this was deferred for further consideration before going to exhibition.
“Proposals to raise water and waste could see average families paying more than double the rate rise in the next year if we do not intervene on pricing,” Cr Guile said.