The community consultation period on a proposal to increase Tamworth's rates by 36.3 per cent across the next two years has officially closed, and ratepayers will spend the next month anxiously awaiting the results.
Based on this feedback, staff will weigh the concerns of the community against council's "grim" financial future, and form a professional opinion on whether or not the rates increase should proceed.
The staff's recommendation will then be presented in a report for councillors to vote on at their next meeting on November 28, 2023.
"Council will not make any comment until the report is publicly available on the Friday before the meeting," a council spokesperson told the Leader.
What happens next?
At their November meeting, councillors will decide whether to proceed with an application to the state regulator, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
Before this happens, the Tamworth Regional Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRRA) has set up a community campaign called 'Figure it out TRC' to pressure the local government into giving up on the rate rise.
Tamworth Regional Council has previously said it's saving $7.8 million per year by cutting costs and received a further $3.2 million in one-off savings in recent years, and Tamworth's mayor Russell Webb said the proposed rate rise is "certainly not extreme" when compared to other neighbouring councils.
If councillors decide in November to go through with the application to IPART, the application will be lodged in or before February 2024, and the state regulator will embark on its own community consultation.
'Figure it out TRC' has already committed to lobbying IPART against the proposal should it get to that point.
One of the major components of IPARTs assessment will be whether the state regulator believes Tamworth ratepayers have the capacity to pay a rate rise which would put average residential rates up by $221.50 in the next financial year and $212.82 the year after.
Once its assessment has been made, IPART is expected to announce the outcome of the application in May or June 2024, with any approved increase to apply to rates from July 2024.
How did the consultation go?
Council policy prevents staff from answering the Leader's enquiries into the results of the community consultation period until its report becomes publicly available.
However, a recent report on council's budget reveals the local government has spent at least $30,000 on community consultation for the proposed rate increase.
This money was spent on print, TV, radio and social media advertising, though the exact amounts - and the overall total - will not be publicly known until after the November council meeting.
The two sessions in Tamworth itself attracted a much smaller turnout in comparison, with only a handful of ratepayers in attendance at each.
In addition, the 'Figure it out TRC' campaign has started a petition asking council to abandon the 36.3 per cent Special Rate Variation.
The petition has garnered more than 500 signatures thus far.
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