Over the past two weeks, commissioners and council staff have been hearing views from the community on both the council's Annual Plan (1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014), and the council's Long Term Plan. The latter Plan takes us through to 2022.
Council received some 321 submissions from members of the community, of which 133 submissions were of a generic nature from members of the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association.
Listening to submissions is a humbling experience. One meets the best of people from our District – people involved in community projects. We are fortunate in the District to have so many people so dedicated to assisting our communities.
Having considered the submissions, the commissioners made final decisions last week on council's Plans. As we did so, we were mindful of the fact that these are tough times for many ratepayers – whether they be farmers struck by the drought, small business people, or those on low incomes or pensions. We were keen to keep rate increases as low as possible, and to hold to the discipline of reducing rather than increasing debt.
We have erred on the side of caution this year with respect to cash grants to community organisations. We have done so for three reasons:
The latter point is important. Grants to community groups need to be guided by sound criteria and explicit requirements. Over recent years council has made sizeable grants to a number of community organisations – for instance grants to the Mangawhai Activity Zone and the Dargaville Cinema, each of $200,000. The Mangawhai Historical Society has been awarded grants of a similar size from the Mangawhai Endowment Fund for the museum project.
For grants of this size, a clear “business case” needs to be established. Council needs to see evidence of sound project management and a funding plan. We need to be convinced of the organisation’s ability to fund operational costs. These disciplines have not always been present in community governed projects, nor indeed in council governed projects like the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.
What amounts are in council’s budgets for community grants this coming year?
But don’t developers pay reserve contributions to pay towards community projects?
Are these reserve contributions sitting in a separate bank account?
When will council debt decline?