CITY of Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels used his deciding vote to approve a 4 per cent rate rise rather than the originally proposed 5 per cent rise.
It came as council was deadlocked last night with councillors Lee Downham, Leigh Liley, Deb Hamblin and Joy Stewart voting in favour of 4 per cent, while Crs Sammels, Katherine Summers, Justin Smith and Chris Elliott were in favour of 5 per cent.
Cr Sammels said knowing how missing councillors Matthew Whitfield and Kelly McManus – both were in favour of reducing rates – felt about the issue of rates, he would use his power as Mayor to push through the 4 per cent rise and avoid delays.
It came after an impassioned plea from Cr Elliott, who said while the decrease would save individual ratepayers around $11 in 2016-17, it had the potential to carve $700,000 out of the City’s Business Plan if rates returned to a 5 per cent increase next year.
“Given the enormous population growth we are expecting, around 10 to 20 per cent, a 4 per cent rise is too low,” he said.
He went on to say the difference between 4 per cent and 5 per cent would be negligible for residents but would make life for council more difficult.
“The difference between 4 and 5 per cent for a typical ratepayer, namely someone who has a house worth around $400,000, is $11,” he said.
“That’s enough to buy you a Big Mac, a small fries and a small coke but it will take $700,000 out of this year’s budget.”
“If we stayed at 4 per cent (for the duration of the Business Plan), it would take $58 million.”
However, Cr Downham said the City should see this reduction as an opportunity.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” he said.
“We could look at better ways to raise revenue rather than burden the ratepayer.”
Crs Hamblin and Liley said it was time to support the residents as many prepared to face significant financial challenges.
After debating, Cr Sammels said he was not confident of getting a majority to support 5 per cent and would instead push through the 4 per cent rise.
Council sits again on Tuesday June 28.