WAGGA mayor Rod Kendall has warned the quality of services such as sporting fields and libraries could be diminished by a multi-million dollar rates backlog as ratepayers owe council $3.61 million.
While the outstanding figure ranks the Wagga Local Government Area (LGA) better than most other across the state for rate arrears, council is imploring ratepayers to cough up the money to ensure services and projects are not compromised.
Cr Kendall said rates accounted for council’s primary form of income, contributing to facilities and services, such as sewage management across all towns in the LGA.
“They (rates) are extremely important,” he said.
“To be able to budget and undertake projects, we need predictable rate payments. (But) at any given time, there will be outstanding arrears.”
The total amount of rates and annual charges outstanding as of June 30 was $3.61 million in the Wagga LGA, compared to $3.65 million the previous year.
The backlog accounts for 6.21 per cent of the total charges levied for the year, sitting healthy against a state average of 6.5 per cent.
The actual amount of rates and charges outstanding in the state has increased by 15 per cent since 2009/10, according to the Local Government’s Association 2015 report for the previous financial year, but Wagga LGA is on the improve.
“Council has set a target of 6 per cent,” WWCC corporate services director Craig Richardson said.
“The 2014/15 result of 6.21 per cent is moving closer to the target and represents an improvement from the 6.45 per cent result from 2013/14 and 7.23 per cent in 2012/13.”
Income generated by rates makes up about 25 per cent of WWCC's total yearly income, according to Mr Richardson, and without a constant income, services and projects are jeopardised under budget variations.
“Council sends out regular reminders and in some cases is required to undertake further follow up action including legal action,” Mr Richardson said.
“Council encourages anyone experiencing financial difficulties to contact council and make a payment arrangement.”
The benchmark for outstanding rates is less than 10 per cent for rural areas, according to the Local Government Association.
Mr Richardson explained rates are calculated on the value of your land.
“Added to this are the fixed annual charges for sewerage and waste services to all areas where these services are supplied,” he said.
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