Council votes again to raise rates to fix roads

Lismore City Councillors last night voted for a second time to apply for a special rate variation over four years to fund a massive investment in our local roads and help re-invigorate the CBD.

Mayor Isaac Smith said he and other councillors were aware there is opposition to the rate raise but added it was the job of elected councillors to put the interests of the entire community first. He also noted that there were supporters of the rate rise as noted in the feedback that was made available to all parties.

“I acknowledge that this is a controversial decision and that, for some, this may create a small financial burden” he said.

“We are very aware of that, and we make provisions for this. Ratepayers can contact council to make an arrangement to pay their rates off over time. People can also apply for assistance under our Hardship Policy and all Centrelink pensioners and certain Veteran Affairs pensioners are entitled to a discount, many people take this up already and I encourage others to apply for these.

“No councillor wants to raise rates but there is no alternative. Over the term of this council we have cut spending by millions of dollars, appointed a new General Manager to put new cost-saving measures in place and much more.

“We all want the Lismore community to grow and to become a vibrant economy that will support us into the future.”

“As I have said previously, there is nothing left to trim, which means if we didn’t vote for the rise, we would have to cut essential services and not invest anything in our growth.”

“We have the largest road network of any council in the Northern Rivers, and a maintenance backlog of more than $54 million which has been built up over consecutive councils.

“Unfortunately, previous councils have kicked the issue down the road. This must stop now. If we continue to duck this, it will make it worse for the next council and the cost that will be required to rectify the infrastructure backlog will greatly penalise the community in the future.

“We are not alone in this. Other councils in our area, like Byron Bay, Richmond Valley and Ballina councils have all increased their rates by as much as 33.5% and we can all see the economic growth that has occurred in these areas.

“If are application is approved, this will be the largest investment in our roads in living memory.”

The council will now write to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which will make the final decision on whether to approve the increase.

The council voted to ask IPART for a rate increase over 4 years, starting with 7.5% in the first year, 9.4% in the second year, 3.9% in the third and 3.2% in the fourth year.

Source: Lismore City Council