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11th Apr: “We will not vote for an Annual Plan that has ..."
Published: 11 Apr 2017 - - Author: Newsroom

Press Release from Seven Whanganui District Councilors  7th April 2017

“We will not vote for an Annual Plan 17/18 that has an average rate increase of more than 2%”

That is what seven Whanganui district councillors told Mayor Hamish McDouall and Chief Executive Kym Fell in an email they sent to them on February 2nd.

This followed a workshop held on 1st February where councillors had been presented with a draft Annual Plan that suggested that the average rates increase would be 3.3%.

They said, as a collective group, that this alliance between the four Whanganui Beyond 2030 councillors, David Bennett, Murray Cleveland, Alan Taylor, and Graeme Young, and three independent councillors, Rob Vinsen, Charlie Anderson, and Philippa Baker Hogan, had given the group a voting majority on Council,

We told Mayor Hamish that given the low rate of inflation and the high percentage of fixed income ratepayers in Whanganui that any average increase over 2% was unacceptable. We also suggested a method to reduce the rate collection by 1.3%

We were pleased when Finance Manager Mike Fermor presented a revised draft plan three weeks later, on February 22, that had reduced the average rate increase down to 1.9%. This is the lowest average rate increase since  2005/2006, twelve years ago.

We recognise the efforts of the Chief Executive Kym Fell, and his senior management team to reduce both  operating expenses and personnel costs  below that in the 16/17 plan.

We congratulate them for that initiative,

We also believe that it was no coincidence that the proposed rate increase was  reduced to below 2% and the seven councillors consider that that reduction is a victory for their alliance.

It is also a victory for the ratepayer.

Although Council will only collect 1.9% more in rates than last year, it should be remembered that actual rate increases will vary across the suburbs and sectors due to revaluations   - some lower , some higher.

The seven councillors said they will continue to unite in the interests of the ratepayer on issues where they believe this strategy will be effective.

Signed by  :

Cr’s David Bennett, Murray Cleveland, Alan Taylor, Graeme Young, Rob Vinsen, Charlie Anderson, Philippa Baker Hogan.

10 April 2017

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Dear Hamish

This memo to you is written on behalf of seven councillors.

Bennett ,Cleveland , Baker Hogan, Young, Taylor, Vinsen, Anderson,

We are writing in response to your request for feedback on todays Annual Plan Workshop.

We entered the meeting today where we were presented with a draft plan proposal for a  2.9% average increase in rates for 17/18.

We then were invited to present and agreed to proposals that lifted the rates increase to 3.3%.

The issue we need to resolve is that it is the belief of this group that  ANY rate increase over 2 % is unacceptable and cannot be justified given the very low rate of inflation and high percentage of fixed income earners in our community.

The question is how best to reduce the rate requirement.

The suggestion from yourself, and from Kym, is that we councillors identify which items we want to cut from the budget.

This is the standard pushback that is always the tactic – but it is almost impossible for councillors to have the awareness needed to identify where in a large budget cuts are the least painfully made.

It is our belief that it is the CEO and his key activity managers that are best positioned to make these reductions.

We also believe that it is not either wise, or necessary, to leave out work items completely, and that a reduction across the entire Council budget is a pragmatic and sustainable approach.

In explanation :

The total projected rates requirement for 17/18 is $55.077 M

To achieve a 1.3 % rate reduction $716,000 has to be removed.

It is a fact that Council always ( in recent memory) never overspends it’s budgets.

Carryovers ( last year was $880,000) occur every year.

Most budgets are set to a tidy rounded ( up) figure, ie $20,000, $50,000, $100,000, $300,000 – and tendered prices are usually comfortably below estimates.

We believe that Activity Managers can find a 1.3% saving in their budgets – without too much hardship – and still complete the work they have programmed. They only need to be instructed to do so.

We are saying that  eg a $100,000 line item can become $98700 with little real hardship, but collectively over the entire $55M rate requirement the rate increase will reduce from 3.3% to 2.0%

We are saying that, as a group,

  • we will not be agreeing to any rate increase greater than 2.0%
  • we will not be agreeing to any draft plan that does not include provision for the upsizing of Wikitoria Rd Culvert

In adopting this position the group believe that we are acting in the best interests of the electorate and the mandate that they gave us.

Regards

Cr’s  Bennett,          Baker Hogan          Cleveland           Taylor         Young

Vinsen,      Anderson

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