BATHURST Regional Council will be allowed to lift rates beyond a limit that was announced late last year.
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The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) had set a rate peg limit of 0.9 per cent for Bathurst Regional Council for 2022-23, which was described by council's director of corporate services and finance Aaron Jones as disappointing.
He told the Western Advocate last December that the rate peg as announced would "result in a negative growth for council's finances" and, to maintain a balanced budget for next year and the future years, council would be "forced to revisit, and revise down, the service levels and initiatives previously planned for those years".
Council subsequently applied to IPART for an "additional special rate variation" of 2.5 per cent and a decision on that application was announced on Monday.
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Bathurst Regional Council will be allowed to lift its rates by 2.5 per cent, as will Orange City Council (whose rate peg had been 0.7pc) and Lithgow Council (whose rate peg had also been 0.7pc).
Oberon Council will be able to lift its rates by 2.1pc (its rate peg had been 0.7pc) and Dubbo Regional Council will be able to lift rates by 2.3pc (its rate peg had also been 0.7pc).
At the March Bathurst Regional Council meeting, where the decision was made to apply for an additional special rate variation, Mr Jones said the 2.5 per cent, on an average rate, would equate "to just under $40 per year per ratepayer".
In regards to the decision to apply for the variation, council general manager David Sherley said the rising costs being imposed on the council made it necessary to increase rates to be able to maintain service levels.
In a statement on Monday, IPART said it had approved applications by 86 NSW councils to increase their rates above the level of the annual rate peg.
"The latest rate peg was determined in the low inflation environment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic," tribunal member Deborah Cope said.
"Since then, high inflation and global uncertainty increased councils' costs. Some councils have demonstrated that without additional funds they will not be able to deliver the projects they have already consulted on and included in their budgets."
Ms Cope said IPART was "careful to balance the need of councils to maintain the services and investment they had already committed to against the need to keep rates affordable for the community".
IPART said applications for an additional special rate variation were assessed against guidelines provided by the Office of Local Government.
It said the guidelines required councils to show that they had budgeted for higher income than that provided by the rate peg and that they needed the additional money to deliver on the projects they had already planned and included in their budgets.
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