Deemed not “Fit for the Future” by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) last month, Warrumbungle Shire Council has undertaken steps to reverse the decision.
Following discussions with IPART, Council held an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, 28 October where they resolved to:
• Introduce a stormwater levy of $20 per annum to ratepayers within each of the shire’s towns, in order to fund the extensive backlog of stormwater infrastructure projects;
• Review service levels with the community, where Council will consider either a 10 per cent Special Rates Variation or an equivalent cost saving; and
• Further review staffing levels and, through attrition, save $300,000 over the next five years.
In order to rectify the situation, mayor, Peter Shinton, said Council had to demonstrate to IPART that they could remain viable without Federal Government Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs).
“Any council that included the FAGs in their submission was classified as unfit, even though most rural councils are dependent on them,” Cr Shinton explained.
“The Government sets these benchmarks and you’ve got to reach them.”
Addressing circulating rumours of a rate rise, Cr Shinton said the decision was in the hands of the community.
“Community consultative meetings will begin this month and we will be talking to people about whether they want to see rates increase by 10 per cent over four years to fund a special project, valued at around $750,000, or the other option is to reduce services to an equal value.
“We don’t have an appetite to do it and we’ve never had a Special Rates Variation at Warrumbungle Shire before, but if services are to be improved this is one way to do it.
“However, if the government is serious, the FAGs will most likely be redistributed to country areas, and so none of this will even have to be looked at because we will get an extra $1 million if they are recalculated.”
While a number of councils in the wider region face the prospect of a merger, Cr Shinton has again reiterated Warrumbungle Shire would not be amalgamating with neighbouring councils.
This message was conveyed to representatives from Wellington Council at a meeting last Monday. Liverpool Plains Shire Council also scheduled a meeting with Warrumbungle Shire, but cancelled.
Council has until Wednesday, 18 November to respond to the IPART report.
Warrumbungle Shire Council is hoping to change its "Fit for the Future" rating.