THERE are more viable ways to fund a levee bank than a rate rise, according to the city’s ratepayers.
While conceding the levee bank must be built to dodge another flooding disaster that evacuated thousands in 2012, residents believe selling council assets or prioritising the levee upgrade over pouring more council money into other projects should happen over a rate rise.
It follows council announcing a fortnight ago rates could increase by up to more than 7 per cent to fund council’s one-third $7.75 million slice of the $23.3 million project.
Ratepayer Jeff Stien maintained upgrading the main city levee to one in 100 year protection level and North Wagga to a one in 20 year level “should be government funded”.
“The ratepayers should not have to pay for the upgrade of the levee and Wagga City Council may consider selling the Douglas Aerospace hangar and other assets to pay for the levee upgrade,” Mr Stien said.
Former mayor Kevin Wales said money spent on council projects, such as duplicating equine facilities at CSU to the Equex Centre, would be better poured into funding our levee.
“I just think there’s other ways of doing it rather than slugging everyone in Wagga with a rate increase,” Mr Wales said. “Maybe if there was a little bit of forethought given, (council would) put money aside to help us with charges to the levee bank.”
A council spokesman has since moved to allay concerns over whether the special rate variation (SRV) of 4.1 per cent for non-farmland properties and 1.91 per cent for farmland properties would be stuck with us forever.
“The levee upgrade component will be maintained for five years, it will increase each year only by the approved rate peg,” the spokesman said. “At the end of the five year period the levee upgrade component will no longer appear on rates notices, and it’s anticipated that rates in 2021/22 will be lower than they are in 2020/21.”
An average residential property in Wagga in 2015/16, for example, had a land value of $121,000 and paid $995.01 in land rates. Under the SRV, rates will increase by $70.63 in the first year because of the 4.1 per cent levee upgrade component and 3 per cent rate peg component. Rates will then drop in 2012/22 because the rate peg component will not be applied on top of the previous year’s levee upgrade component.
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