A PROPOSAL by Lake Macquarie City Council to raise the annual lease on halls could push community services in Belmont to breaking point.
The Belmont Neighbourhood Centre pays $1606.32 every year to operate, but that could increase to $4000 for the remainder of the 2013/14 financial year.
On Monday night as The Star went to press, the council was discussing the proposal to lift the rent on 49 community facilities and organisations.
Some, like the Belmont Neighbourhood Centre, could face increases of up to 149 per cent.
The centre provides many community programs, including the Belmont Men's Shed, Habitat in Harmony community garden, arts and crafts, and playgroup.
Its community hall is booked to capacity for the next three months. The centre refuses to raise its fees, which are $12.50 an hour for not-for-profit organisations and $25 for others.
Centre manager Sheena Harvey congratulated the council on its transparent funding model, but did not know how the centre would afford to keep going.
"Our philosophy is to keep things at a low-cost, no-cost equation, so I am really reluctant to increase our fees," she said.
"It would be a shame to see any one of these services go. How am I going to choose?"
A council statement said the centre could not demonstrate financial hardship as its income for the 2011/12 financial year was $16,188.
Councillor Kay Fraser said she shared the centre's concern, describing the proposed increases as "unfair and excessive", and would like to see council work with the community groups to develop payment plans.
"All these community groups do so much for the community, the last thing I want to see as a councillor is them walk away," Cr Fraser said.
Councillor Chad Griffith said it was a fine line for council.
"Increasing the rent where people don't have the capacity to pay is difficult, but council has a bottom line," he said.
Council officers recommended that councillors adopt the revised contribution model, to lift the rent on 49 community facilities and organisations, and apply to all new and existing leases.