Tamworth Regional Council general manager Paul Bennett spoke to media on Tuesday morning to explain the local government's position, after state regulator IPART's decision to set the region's maximum rate rise at 4.9 per cent.
"It doesn't change the level of our special rate variation (SRV), it's still 36.3 per cent across the two years. It just means a smaller increase above the rate peg than it otherwise would've been," Mr Bennett said.
But the Tamworth Regional Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRRA) says council should instead be happy with what the state regulator has given, especially as bigger caps on rate increases start to become the new normal.
"With the 4.9 per cent peg, and presuming the following year will be similar, we do question whether the council needs to put in such a high special rate variation (SRV)," TRRRA Secretary Robyn Lang said.
Last week, The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) announced a raft of changes to how it sets the state's annual rate peg - the maximum amount a local government can increase rates each year.
Mr Bennett said he welcomes the changes, and that while applying for an SRV is still "necessary" to get council back into a good financial position, it should be the last one for a long time, if ever.
"The new methodology has demonstrated the cost increases for local government are much higher than what they've previously given. If we had rate pegs like this 4.9 per cent over the last 10 years it's very unlikely council would've needed to go for a special rate variation," he said.
"What the future rate pegs will do is, once we're back to the level of revenue we should have as an organisation, future rate pegs - if they are aligned like this current announcement has been - should negate the need for any further SRVs in the future."
The local ratepayers' association says the higher rate pegs should negate the need for the yet-to-be-approved SRV too.
"Because everyone else has to live within their means. I know council has prices that are going up, but I'm sure like everybody they could be more efficient with their spending," Ms Lang told the Leader.
Mr McKinnon called on local business owners to "wake up" and get involved in efforts to stop the proposed rate rise.
"I can't understand why businesses, who are going to pay a lot more than residents, are still asleep. They're going to pay seriously extra on top of everything and yet they seem to be silent," he said.
On top of that, TRRRA's secretary said, it's important to remember how raising rates will impact ratepayers on fixed incomes who are already doing it rough.
"People are struggling with the fallout from floods and COVID. Any sort of rate increase is going to put further pressure on those people," Ms Lang said.
Tamworth council's general manager said ratepayers' ability to pay will be an important topic councillors will consider before making their final decision on whether to apply for the SRV next week.
"We've certainly looked at the issues around people on fixed incomes, and in particular pensioners. There will be some options put to councillors next week about how we can best compensate and lessen the impact on those ratepayers," Mr Bennett said.
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