Newcastle council looks to increase rates

NEWCASTLE council wants to increase rates between 3.3 and 3.6 per cent each year for the next five years over the rate cap, despite a massive turnaround in its bottom line over the past 12 months.

A 3.6 per cent rate increase will cost the average ratepayer an extra $39 a year and businesses an extra $313.

The elected council unanimously voted in favour of putting council staff's proposal on public exhibition at last week's meeting.

In July the council announced a $24.2 turnaround in its budget over the past year, its deficit dropping from $29.9 million to $5.7 million.

The turnaround in fortunes was largely thanks to an $8.68 million accounting error and the downsizing of staff, which saved an extra $6.6 million.

In applying for a rate raise, the council must provide evidence to IPART (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) that the community is aware of the need for and extent of a rate rise, and seek feedback.

The council was criticised by some ratepayers for not following through on promised capital projects after gaining a 5 per cent one-off increase above the cap in the 2012-13 financial year.

The seven projects to benefit from the rate rise were the revitalisation of Hunter Street, the revitalisation of the coastline, upgrades of Blackbutt Reserve, cycleways for the city, swimming pools improvement, libraries upgrades and the expansion of the art gallery.

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