The Invercargill City Council this afternoon approved its 2016-2017 budget, with a rates rise of 2.32%, which is below the increase forecast last year in Council’s Long Term Plan, Chairman of Finance and Policy Cr Neil Boniface said today.
Council had reviewed the proposed projects, their costs and whether further savings could be made, Cr Boniface (pictured) said. Councillors had also received 100 written submissions and listened to a day of verbal submissions from people, before making the final decisions about the budget. He thanked people who had contributed to the submission process.
Key issues identified and decisions made:
Council went out for public consultation with a proposed rates increase of 2.80% in the 2016-2017 year. Following the consultation process and decisions on submissions, the rates increase for the 2016-2017 year will be 2.32%.
Most submitters, 61%, supported Council’s proposal of creating a reserve fund for the alcohol licensing fees and to re-evaluate in two years to assess whether the new fee structure would pay for itself without a rates subsidy.
The support for an increase in grant funding was almost evenly divided. Anderson Park Art Gallery Trust requested a further grant of $120,000 to help move the art collection to a temporary space within the CBD. Council decided to grant an increase to the funding by $120,000 for the 2016-2017 financial year to enable a move to the CBD and pay for staffing relating to the move. The Council will put the money into a reserve fund until further work is completed on the final location of the Gallery. Council will require the move to be a long-term solution that provides for the best use of ratepayer funds.
Most submitters were in support of Council increasing its expenditure for building services with a rates increase. Council decided to increase its rates expenditure by 0.42% per year to cover the cost of the shortfall in income in the Building Services Department. Council also requires Building Services to undergo a review during the coming years to evaluate any areas where efficiencies can be made to lower the cost of this activity.
City Centre Co-ordinator
Council indicated that it would like to reintroduce a targeted rate to the City Centre. This rate would re-instate the one that was previously collected under the Vibrant Rate. The collection of this rate will allow Council to employ someone to work as a facilitator and engagement specialist with City Centre businesses and the Council. Council decided to reintroduce a targeted rate to the Central Business District that will pay for the employment of a City Centre Co-ordinator.
Parks: Chinese Garden
Council also approved the funding from existing Parks funds of a Chinese Garden in Queens Park. The garden is to be established as a friendship garden and to represent the City’s sister city relationship with Suqian in China. The new garden will be funded through a fund for Queens Park Specialist Displays, Parks Special Funds Reserves Development and surpluses in the Parks business unit. The total cost of the new garden will be approximately $600,000.
Parks: New Ranger
Most submitters, 64%, were in favour of employing a new park ranger to help patrol the 3000 hectares of parks and reserves in Invercargill. Many submitters were grateful that the new ranger would have an emphasis on patrolling the beach and Sandy Point as these are areas that are very heavily used by residents. Council decided to increase rates by 0.17% to cover the cost of increasing staff levels, allowing for increased ranger patrolling hours and raising the level of service provided.
Most submitters supported Council’s proposal to increase fees at the transfer station for all non-Council users and increase rates by 0.55%. This option means the increase in user fees to the transfer station is shared amongst all non-council users. The raising of the fees will offset the required rates increase and the cost of funding non-Council solid waste disposal will be shared by all non-council users. Council decided to increase rates by 0.55% and raise fees for all cash customers and account holders including trailers, green waste, and solid waste at the transfer station.
Southland Regional Heritage Rate
The Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust requested an increase in funding from Council to go to the Southland Regional Heritage Rate which provides the Museum with grant funding. The Museum wanted to use the increase to hire more staff and start the much-needed catalogueing of its collection. Council proposed four different options, three that included funding and one that did not. Options that included funding were favoured by 72% of submitters. Council wants to be sure that additional funding provided to the Museum is done in line with any necessary development and, after having heard submissions, has changed its preferred option. Council decided to increase the Southland Regional Heritage Rate by $5.00 in line with Southland District Council.
Most submitters were in support of the Council increasing rates in 2016-2017 to reduce the rate increase for the asbestos/cement (AC) pipe replacement plan included in the Long-Term Plan the following year. This means ratepayers will have less of an increase in 2017-2018. Council decided that it would increase the contribution to the water infrastructure reserve by $200,000 and withdraw this funding the following year to reduce the rates increase impact in the 2017-2018.
In addition to approving the 2016-2017 Annual Plan, Council approved the 2016-2017 Fees and Charges for Council activities and Council Controlled Organisations. These are effective from 1 July 2016. It also approved the 2016-2017 Rates Resolution to set the rates for the new financial year.