THE business community has hit back at a “disproportionate” rate rise to fund council’s share of the levee bank upgrade, which will see business owners pay almost $500 extra a year.
The sting compares to a much less $70.63 rate increase for the city’s residential ratepayers – a move the business fraternity is now resisting.
Kincaid Street Takeaway owner, Lyn Taylor, believed the $447.79 business rate rise – to account for council’s one-third slice of the $23.3 million project to upgrade the main city levee to a one in 100 year level of protection and the North Wagga levee to a one in 20 year level – was “way too much”.
“That will pretty much cripple me because I’ve already got so many overheads,” Ms Taylor said. She questioned why businesses must bear the brunt of the proposed special rate variation (SRV). It is a sentiment backed by Wagga Business Chamber president Tim Rose, who is imploring council to consider alternate ways to fund the project over the proposed SRV.
“(The levee bank) has got to be done and I’m encouraged that council has finally stopped studying this thing to death and finally taking action,” Mr Rose said.
“I think there are smarter ways to do that. We’re there to try to make sure they don’t shaft businesses.”
Mr Rose suggested council liaise with local insurance brokers to negotiate discounts on premiums upfront rather than waiting for the levee’s construction to avoid “paying twice”.
He believed federal grants given to evacuated locals in the 2012 flood would have been better spent upgrading the levee itself or compensating businesses left with nothing. “It’s just a shame an opportunity was missed,” he said.
Leprechaun's Bean owner, Heather Hassall, welcomed the rate rise to reduce the threat of flood after “losing everything” in 2012, but admitted costs could pose problematic. “It’s another expense, but I think it’s actually a good idea,” she said.
Creative Business Furniture owner Peter Wood also backed the rate rise “to improve the infrastructure … council doesn’t have the funds for”.
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