The proposed average rates increase for this year is 4.8 percent. Woohoo, says no one!
As every year rolls around, local and regional councils tax another hard-earned portion of your income. It’s like a never-ending cycle . . . probably because it actually is.
We’re also in “election year”. In the next few months prospective candidates in local elections will make pledges to secure your valued vote and the most pertinent question on the lips of voters is “are you going to increase rates” or something similar.
I’ve been serving the community as an elected member for 12 years now and I’ve never stood on a campaign promising lower rates. I know how challenging the rates area is. It’s about here that I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Rates are forecast in the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) for the next 20 years. You can find the LTP on the council’s website. So unless you reduce spending or increase income, not a lot is going to change.
Councillors work hard to prioritise what they think we should or shouldn’t do, but usually you’ll see rates within 1-2 percent of the council’s forecasted LTP. For example, this year our LTP rates were forecasted at an average of 6 percent, so 1.2 percent higher than we’ve proposed this year.
Have you ever seen an election candidate say “vote for me and I’ll see that nothing is spent in this community”? Nope, didn’t think so. That’s because they wouldn’t get elected.
There’s this tension between still delivering new or renewed assets (halls, roads, playgrounds etc) or services within the district, while trying to keep rates down. Among all this you’re also competing with the election promises of other elected members across the district.
So when election candidates start throwing around promises of reduced rates, ask them to explain in detail how they propose to achieve this. Don’t accept answers like “reduce spending” – reduce spending from where? Or “cutting staff numbers” – tell me what roles are surplus to requirements? Or on the other hand, “provide more social housing” – great, but where are you going to fund both the capital and operating expenditure to do this? Candidates need to be able to back up the “what they’ll do” with “how they’ll do it”.
Rates next year, however, will be interesting. The Waikanae Library needs money and I predict more council buildings will be revealed to also need repair.
James Cootes is the Ōtaki Ward councillor on the Kāpiti Coast District Council.