Rates are consistently the second most important issue to ratepayers and residents surveyed in the region (after wastewater in recent years). I believe as ratepayers we need to accept that we live in a large region with high infrastructure needs. We also have a relatively low (and stable) population, low median income levels and subsequently a lower than average capacity to afford rate rises.Infrastructure upgrades were grossly neglected over successive Councils through the 1960s to 1980s and rates were kept artificially low as a result. A declining population also contributed to significant rate rises over the past ten years. It should also be pointed out, that the average rates bill is around $1,800 per annum, the average household has 2.8 people living in it and the average rates per person per annum is therefore around $1.75 per day… to have clean drinking water, a flushing toilet, sealed roads, lighting on the roads, rubbish collection, a library service, civil defence, sports grounds, parks and the list goes on. Rates for most people are a lot less than what they pay on income tax and the returns are almost comparable.Most households can afford to find an extra $200 per year but some cannot. A few strategies for assisting people who are vulnerable to rate rises that I would like to see advanced are: (a) increased access to rates relief for people who budget well and genuinely need assistance – with a shifting of that cost to those of us who can afford to pay a little bit more; (b) assistance for pensioners with establishing family trusts that they can transfer ownership of their property to and encourage children, families or other beneficiaries of the trusts to make regular contributions to the costs of rates on the properties;
(c) ongoing lobbying of central government to transfer more of the public tax take, subsidies and other financial assistance to local government (particular those responsible for areas with high deprivation, large geography and high infrastructure costs) as more responsibilities and compliance are required of council;
(d) encourage participation and investment in the establishment of a community foundation, community housing trusts, shared ownership and alternative energy options to reduce per capita housing costs.
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