Controls helping to even out Council finances
Council has begun another planning cycle to bed down its Annual Plan for the next year, beginning 1 July 2014. This week a timetable to consult with residents and ratepayers will be finalised and notified to you.
The proposed Plan has come together well. Council costs and contracts are being managed carefully. Council staffing and administration costs are being controlled tightly. There are some costs that are difficult to plan for, and some that we prefer not to incur, like the considerable legal costs defending the challenges in the High Court by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association.
We have a much better understanding of our assets than we did a year ago. Over the past year, a major focus has been placed on establishing asset management plans to cover the over half a billion dollars of infrastructure assets that your Council owns, including roads and underground pipes. We need to upgrade some of the stormwater and wastewater systems in our older town settlements, and this is being budgeted for over the years ahead of us.
Where are rate levels heading?
Average rate increases proposed in this Annual Plan for the year beginning 1 July 2014 are 2.3 percent. Rates are made up of a number of elements, and so some property owners will find their rates above this figure, and some below. In Kaiwaka for instance, the need for wastewater and stormwater pipe renewals has pushed up the proposed rate increase. In Mangawhai, average residential rate increases proposed are below 2.3 percent.
How are Council’s general finances?
It is pleasing to report that Council is in a financially sustainable position.
* Property owners can have confidence that the high degree of volatility of rate changes experienced over the past two years has ended.
* Council’s debt is dropping. It is now under $78 million.
* Council is running its operations at break-even or slightly better, as well run Council’s should. We expect to make a small operating surplus this year. (You may recall that Council made an operating deficit of over $10 million in 2012.)
Is Council still deferring road maintenance and capital projects?
We have deferred some roading projects due to the refusal of some ratepayers to pay their rates and the Commissioners’ decision not to incur additional Council debt to cover this shortfall.
Many property owners who were withholding rates have responded to the passing of the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act by paying their rates. Thank you. With rate collections increasing, I expect Commissioners to approve shortly the resumption of some of our deferred road works.
It is disappointing to see the campaign, by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association, calling on property owners to refuse to pay rates continuing into 2014. The services that are provided by the Council are critical public good services. It is important that we all contribute to the funding of them.
The removal of mangroves at Mangawhai
The resource consent for the removal of mangroves that have encroached into some of Mangawhai’s waterways has been awarded. As noted at a public meeting recently held to advise of the consent, the removal process requires many volunteers. If you can help, please do so.
Thank you to those who have spent so many hours, for so many years, attending to the restoration and the enhancement of our harbour, and the protection of its unique attributes.