Home owners in Collie will face the lowest confirmed rates rise in the region after the council endorsed a 1.55 per cent increase as part of its 2019-20 budget on Tuesday.
After nearly five hours of deliberation, councillors landed on the low figure just minutes before midnight by making some “tough decisions,” according to shire president Sarah Stanley.
Elsewhere in the South West, Bunbury City Council and Capel Shire Council increased rates by 3 per cent, while Harvey Shire Council implemented a 3.5 per cent hike and an increase of 4 per cent was put in place by Dardanup Shire Council.
Donnybrook-Balingup Shire Council will consider its draft budget this month with councillors capping the increase at 3 per cent.
Collie’s figure lands between Perth’s Consumer Price Index of 1.1 per cent and the local government CPI of 1.8 per cent.
“Councillors take it very seriously and we were debating items which were just hundreds of dollars,” Cr Stanley said.
“As councillors we want to please the whole community and it’s tough to make decisions about what needs to be done and what can be put off.
“They are telling us they don’t want any increase at all, but a zero increase is just not possible for us in order to continue providing the services expected,” she said.
Local Government Minister David Templeman commended the council for keeping rates low in line with a difficult economic climate.
“Collie is experiencing more difficult economic circumstances than most local government areas, so taking pressure off individuals and families by limiting rate rises is helpful,” he said.
Savings have been made through delaying vehicle change-overs, installing new pumps at the pool, prioritising projects in building maintenance and “other little bits and pieces which all add up”.
“While people are tightening their belts (we) need to do the same,” Cr Stanley said.
Community requests to refurbish memorial plaques at Soldiers Park, install shade sails and improve paths were also heeded and included in the budget.
Cr Stanley said money for other projects had been set aside so they could be completed in stages to “ensure there was still movement in those areas”.
Rates increases within the Shire of Collie have been kept relatively low over the past three financial years.
An increase of 2.482 per cent last year followed a 2 per cent increase in 2017-18.
Previous increases were significantly higher and Cr Stanley said the council was now listening to the community.
Mr Templeman said local governments must tread a fine balance between providing important local services and ensuring households are not unduly hit with unjustified rate hikes.
“I encourage councils to work hard to keep as much pressure as possible off households when formulating their budgets,” he said.