Ratepayers facing merger levy

Ratepayers facing merger levy

‘It’s possible, but we haven’t made a decision on that yet, and it’s certainly being considered at the WA Local Government Association (WALGA),’ Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said.

However, considering a levy, and its size, depended on what proposal the State Government chose if the Local Government Advisory Board makes its recommendations in about five weeks.

‘With Nedlands, there are six or seven proposals for us, and which one is chosen is likely to affect the cost of merging,’ Mr Hipkins said.

Last week, a levy was suggested when 24 Perth mayors met at WALGA to discuss opposition to the State Budget’s $15 million in grants, and $45 million in loans, for mergers over a three-year period.

WALGA says $65-$100 million is needed in the first year, based on the $4.1 million that was estimated for a 2011 proposed Subiaco-Nedlands merger.

‘Councils only have three options to meet the cost: increased rates, reduced services or sell assets, all of which are bad outcomes for the community,’ WALGA president Troy Pickard said.

WALGA wants the Government to contribute another $60 million but Premier Colin Barnett has said there will be no more money and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson has said he could only ask for more after the LGAB’s recommendations were made.

Cambridge Mayor Simon Withers said that the options of asset sales, borrowing and rates rises would have the greatest impact in 2014-15 when new council administrations were created and a 10 per cent rates rise was a ‘good starting point’.

Whether Cambridge’s rates notices would include a levy depended on the Government’s merger choice and the solidarity of councils.

‘Cambridge will discuss the method of funding the costs with the council, or councils, with which it is required to merge, with a view to all councils in the merger having the same strategy for funding the amalgamations’ costs,’ he said.

Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris said merger funding had yet to be discussed, but a levy would infer accepting the Government’s proposals which at a ‘best guess’ could cost $50 to $60 million in the western suburbs.

Cottesloe Mayor Jo Dawkins said there would no merger levy in the 2014/15 budget, after recent rises have been kept at 3.5 to 5 per cent.