Auckland takes rates dilemma to its ratepayers
While councils around the country wrestle with the dilemma over rate rises the Auckland Council’s Emergency Committee, after a 10-hour long meeting decided to “consult with the public” on a rate increase of 2.5 or 3.5 percent.
Finance and Performance Committee chair, councillor Desley Simpson says; “I believe that it is really important for Aucklanders to understand what services they might lose if we went for an even lower rate rise, which is why this will be clearly outlined in the consultation document.”
Mayor Phil Goff says; “The Emergency Committee looked at all options for rate increases and the impact different levels of the rate increase, including a zero percent increase, would have on the ability of the council to provide services for Aucklanders and to invest in infrastructure for jobs.
“There will be a new round of consultation with Aucklanders providing a clear explanation of what each rating option would mean for council services and infrastructure and we will be providing robust information as part of the consultation document to ensure that picture is very clear.”
Goff says there will be a range of measures to target support through deferral and postponement of rates for those facing genuine hardship and unable to pay their rates in the current circumstances. It also means cutting services.
“With a substantial reduction in non-rates revenue caused by the recession, some projects and services will need to be cut or postponed to reduce expenditure. Already many temp or contracted staff have been given notice.”
The Emergency Committee agreed to a suite of measures to immediately offer some support to ratepayers and local businesses, that includes: Waiving the APTR payment from 1 April to 30 June (2020) for all accommodation and tourism businesses and offering ratepayers experiencing financial hardship the opportunity to defer payment of their fourth-quarter rates instalment.
Businesses and residents facing financial hardship will be able to request deferring their fourth-quarter rates payments until the due date of the first rates instalment for the next rating year (31 August 2020) without penalties.
In response; Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Jo Holmes says replacing a 3.5% hike to general rates with a 2.5% percent hike is “pretty feeble”.
“It suggests that the council is only tinkering with its old spending priorities when it needs to wake up to the new economic reality.
“While the decision to suspend the accommodation providers targeted rate is welcome, that was inevitable. Even Auckland Council can’t milk a dead cow.
“A zero percent rate hike is achievable with sensible cuts to payroll and slashing now redundant arms of Council such as ATEED. At the very least, this option should be put out for consultation alongside the others.”