Lismore rates to spike by 12.4%
LISMORE City Council has to find $7 million extra a year to cope with its infrastructure maintenance demands - and ratepayers are set to cop the burden.
Starting in July next year, the council is planning to almost double its existing Special Business Rate Variation on businesses from a total $114,000 to $220,000.
It is currently in the process of consulting with the business community about the change, but has not lodged an application yet to do so.*
City centre businesses will pay the most, forking out an extra $356 a year, while businesses outside the CBD will pay an extra $190.
The following year the council is planning to increase all rates - residents and businesses - by 12.4%, which includes a new 9.9% special rate variation plus the standard 2.5% rate peg.
Under this scenario Lismore CBD businesses would see their rates rise $1024.
Businesses outside the CBD will cough up an additional $546.
Residents will also be slugged, but not quite as much.
Urban residential ratepayers will pay an average of $149 more, based on a land valuation of $133,000.
The average farmland rate will rise by $295, based on a land valuation of $400,000.
And the average rural residential rate will rise by almost $187, based on a land valuation of $226,000.
The special rate variation is being imposed to raise $3 million to use exclusively "toward road maintenance and (to) start addressing Council's significant infrastructure backlog".
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith said the council had originally proposed to introduce the new rate variation in 2018-19 but following the flood it decided to postpone it for 12 months.
"But we do need to get this done because we have to fix up our road network," he said.
"I think it's a worthwhile project. While it's always hard to ask for a rate increase, our surrounding councils are getting 20-30% increases going to other facilities, our rate increase is just to get out roads fixed. We have $1.5 billion in road assets."
Cr Smith said the council had made internal savings of $2.5 million this year, which included a mandatory hiring freeze for six months after any staff departure.
"It's my hope we can bring that down further," he said.
But Cr Smith agreed that city centre rates were too high.
"At the moment our inner CBD pays about four times what the outer CBD does... perhaps the proper ratio might be something like two to one," he said.
Lismore City Council's executive director for infrastructure services Gary Murphy said the council was now seeking the community's feedback on the documents before they go to the council for final adoption on June 20.
"These are tricky decisions but we cannot simply ignore the fact that our infrastructure is getting worse. It is our responsibility to future generations to ensure we are maintaining our assets for future use," Mr Murphy said.
Submissions on the Imagine Lismore Community Strategic Plan and the combined Imagine Lismore Delivery Program and Operational Plan must be received by 4pm on June 7 2017.
* It was previously reported incorrectly that Lismore City Council had already lodged an application with IPART.