The Bega Valley Shire Council cops criticism for its failure to engage with the community.
However after the dismal and embarrassing turnout at the rates workshop on Wednesday evening, the council would be justified in putting an end to such consultations.
The council went to a great deal of trouble to provide laptops, and numerous staff to help residents work out their 2013-14 rates bill plus six of the nine councillors were in attendance including Mayor Bill Taylor and Cr Tony Allen who had to travel considerable distances.
All up the number of council representatives was about equal to the number of attendees that numbered a pathetic 20.
How the council will measure the meeting as a gauge to ratepayers’ response to the proposed increases is any ones guess. But one couldn’t blame the council for thinking that residents really don’t care one way or another and this was true of the meetings in Bega where three people turned up, six in Bermagui and four in Eden.
The poor attendance is bewildering. About six years ago 300 people packed a meeting in Merimbula when the council hoped to push up the rates by a whopping 14 per cent. While the rate increases the council proposes might appear to be more modest 5.4 per cent for 2013-2014 and about the same for 2014-15 and 2015-16, in three years time they will have risen 15 to 16 per cent.
And there’s another catch … residents won’t have the opportunity to comment on the rate increases for 2014-2015 and 2015-16 they will automatically go up as they form part of this year’s application for the increases. Council will not be coming cap in hand next year or the next as the increases for those years will be stitched in.
And that is why it makes it so important for ratepayers to grasp the implications of the proposed special variations. It might be complex and it might require some thinking but it is you the ratepayer who will foot the bill.
Should council decide in the first place to apply for the special variations and should IPART approve the application please don’t whinge, carp or rant about the rate rises if you can’t be bothered to avail yourselves of the opportunity provided by the council to comment.
It is up to you.