City of Rockingham settles on 4% rates increase

City of Rockingham settles on 4% rates increase

THE debate over City of Rockingham’s rates has ended with councillors approving the 2016-17 budget with a 4 per cent increase at last night’s council meeting.

Councillor Katherine Summers was the only one to vote against the increase, instead preferring the 5 per cent originally recommended by City officers.

She argued the difference between 4 and 5 per cent was only around $12 per year for the individual, money that she said residents would prefer to be spent on better services and amenities.

“If you want good services, you have to pay for it,” she said.

“The community has said ‘we want services’… Hand on heart; do I want a better Rockingham? Yes I do.”

Cr Chris Elliott also spoke against the drop, but said he would be voting to approve the budget due to the greater interest of the council.

“This council will drive finances into the ground… I rue the day that I or my echo have to say ‘I told you so’,” he said.

All up, the 1 per cent variance will see the City pull up around $720,000 short of what was first budgeted.

Crs Leigh Liley, Deb Hamblin, Joy Stewart, Matthew Whitfield and Lee Downham all came out in support of the decrease.

Cr Whitfield said it was important the council showed residents that they are listening, saying that money was the be all and end all.

“If we need the $720,000 then we’re in a worse position than I thought,” he said.

Cr Stewart said the City should be looking within to ease the burden on ratepayers.

“My argument is based on growth, sustainability and affordability,” she said.

“We should be looking within City departments to make savings and efficiencies.”

Baldivis Ward’s Cr Downham said it was an ideal time for the City to look for new opportunities to raise revenue.

Projects to be funded in the 2016-17 budget include the Mary Davies Library and Community Centre, Secret Harbour Surf Lifesaving Club, the Rhonda Scarrott Reserve upgrade, the Laurie Stanford Reserve upgrade and the Eighty Road sports complex in Baldivis.

It might be a tougher year for some seniors as the pensioner rates rebate is capped at $750, whereas in previous years the rebate was a full 50 per cent of the total rates.

The rebate is determined by the State Government with the City unable to directly influence the decision.

City of Rockingham estimates the cap will affect only 2 per cent of senior residents, with those wishing to comment on the issue urged to contact their local Member of Parliament.