Rate rise of 10 per cent approved

FAIRFIELD ratepayers will be slugged an extra 10 per cent on their annual rates bills this year after the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approved Fairfield Council's request to increase its general income.

The council sought a 7.7 per cent rise on top of the allowed 2.3 per cent increase. It also requested the combined 10 per cent increase be permanent, stating that the $60.5 million generated above the rate peg over the next 10 years would be used to fund increased running costs, renew and upgrade council buildings, roads, facilities and sportsgrounds and a new Fairfield City Centre Park.

Tribunal chairman Peter Boxall said the increase replaced an expiring special variation of 5 per cent above the rate peg that had been in place since 2001.

In approving the application the tribunal has imposed conditions requiring the extra income be spent on the outlined purposes.

Based on Fairfield's application, average ordinary residential rates go up by $38 in 2014/15, business rates by $346 and farmland rates by $101.

Dr Boxall said that special variations were designed to give councils the flexibility to generate extra income above the rate peg to meet specific needs.

"Fairfield Council was able to meet the criteria for approval of the special variation by demonstrating a clear need for the additional revenue, that they had appropriately engaged the community about the proposed rate increases and that they are taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs," he said. "In making this assessment we considered the council's long-term financial plan and whether the impact of the variation on affected ratepayers was reasonable.

"While these increases will impact on the community we believe they're reasonable under the criteria given that it replaces an expiring special variation and that the council responded to community concerns about affordability by reducing its application to a yearly increase of 10 per cent from its original option of 34 per cent cumulative increase over five or six years including the rate peg."

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