Pirie rate increase proposal put up for public comment

CHANGE: New chief executive officer of Port Pirie Regional Council has been credited with changing the debating procedure on rates for the first time in 25 years.

CHANGE: New chief executive officer of Port Pirie Regional Council has been credited with changing the debating procedure on rates for the first time in 25 years.

At a history-making meeting, civic leaders put forward an average residential rate increase of three percent.

ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Cr Dino Gadaleta found his proposal for a rate reduction slipped through the net at the Port Pirie Regional Council special meeting on Wednesday.

ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Cr Dino Gadaleta found his proposal for a rate reduction slipped through the net at the Port Pirie Regional Council special meeting on Wednesday.

It was the first time that debate on the rating strategy had been handled in an “informal” manner.

Port Pirie Regional Council suspended standing orders at the special meeting on Wednesday to enable free discussion.

The council then went back into formal mode and agreed to new rates for public comment.

Councillors backed the recommendation outlined by finance manager Lynne Walden for a 4.8 percent rise in total rates including rural, commercial, industrial and residential.

The result of the strategy would be a surplus of $365,000.

Cr Dino Gadaleta said total debt would decline by about $2 million in 2018-19 and the council should “give something back to the people” by reducing the overall rate increase to 3.8 percent.

Debate in the informal session was free-flowing and involved candid comments from staff including new chief executive officer Peter Ackland who is credited with introducing the relaxed rules for the discussion for the first time in 25 years.

Veteran Cr Neville Wilson said after the meeting that the approach meant that the council was “doing it in a more correct manner and not a haphazard manner as in the past”.

“It legalised what was always done. It was good for debate,” he said.

In a first for councillors and the media, Recorder reporter Greg Mayfield, who was in the gallery, was asked for his views. In extending the invitation, Deputy Mayor Cr Leon Stephens said Mayfield had covered many debates on rates.

Mayfield said the proposed three-percent average residential rate increase was close to the Consumer Price Index of 2.3 percent and “the surplus is wafer-thin so you don’t have a lot to play with”.

To the reporter’s surprise, this was greeted with applause by most elected members.

The meeting heard that finishing touches to the $24 million sport hub could absorb some of the projected surplus.

In an interesting aside on a hot community topic, Infrastructure director Kathryn Johnson said it would cost a million dollars to upgrade the northern stretch of Florence Street. If this was done, it would leave “no money” for other roadworks.

Meanwhile, Cr Kendall Jackson backed Cr Gadaleta’s plea for a reduction in the proposed rates.

“It would be great to have a positive story out in the community that we have reduced our rates despite these big projects,” she said.

A division was called when councillors voted 7-2 for the rating strategy.

Those in favour were Cr Stephens, Cr Wilson, Cr Darryl Johnson, Cr Alan Zubrinich, Cr Cr Joe Paparella, Dr Debbie Devlin, and Cr Mick Hopgood while Cr Jackson and Cr Gadaleta opposed the move.

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