RATES will rise by almost 4 per cent as Griffith City Council pours funds into roads and park maintenance in the coming financial year.
A tight 2012/13 budget, delivering a $2.5 million surplus, was signed off by councillors this week.
At a time when council is trying to drive down costs to compensate for years of overspending, the budget features cutbacks in operating expenses and upper management positions.
The 3.76 per cent rate rise was the maximum allowed under rate pegging, a limit set down every year by the NSW Department of Local Government.
It translates to about $45 per year for an average residential property.
Council general manager Brett Stonestreet said the increase was necessary to allow council to continue its current level of service.
“We are certainly aware that the community’s ability to pay increased costs on rates is limited,” Mr Stonestreet said.
“It is a stressful time for our community, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has caused the stagnation of the economy and we are not looking to increase costs more than we have to.
“We are doing all we can to keep a lid on passing on costs to ratepayers.”
Mr Stonestreet said council’s backlog of roadwork would be given maximum attention next year, with more than $3 million dedicated to road maintenance.
Parks and gardens will also receive a necessary boost, with maintenance of City Park expected to cost $900,000 and a further $136,000 allocated for the recently upgraded Collina Oval.
“Our roads infrastructure has deteriorated over time and we need to keep injecting money so it doesn’t drop to the point where they need complete reconstruction,” Mr Stonestreet said.
“It is important that we avoid the situation where our roads get to the point of no return.”
On the other side of the coin, council’s budget-busting measures started in March with the announcement of 15 job losses.
The cutbacks were primarily administration and senior management roles and have slashed spending by about $700,000 per year.
Savings will also be gleaned from a new limit imposed on the type of vehicles that can be purchased for council’s fleet.
Mr Stonestreet said the budget included a broad range of efficiency improvements which would be necessary to deliver an ongoing surplus in future years.
He said council would have to remain aware of the cost of asset depreciation and ongoing maintenance when constructing new facilities in future.