Bunbury City council endorse proposed rate increase for public comment

Potential rate increase supported

Despite the City of Bunbury Mayor saying a rate increase of 2.5 per cent was 'unaffordable' the motion to prepare the annual budget was passed.

At the June 8 council meeting, it endorsed the recommendation to prepare the 2021/22 City of Bunbury Annual Budget based on a 2.5 per cent increase in property rates.

As part of the recommendation, council also voted for the chief executive to present the 21/22-24/25 Corporate Business Plan and the 22/33 Long Term Financial Plan on June 29.

Council also adopted to have the schedule of fees and charges, which forms part of the budget to be advertised for public comment.

Councilor Kris Plumb originally moved the motion and said that an increase of 2.5 per cent after no increase occurred for the last financial year, was the right amount.

"2.5 per cent is fair. This is going to cost everyone a little bit but if we don't have the courage to ask the community to commit just a little bit more, then certain areas of the community will fall behind," Cr Plumb said.

"1.5 per cent will be breaking even and not planning for our future. The additional 1 per cent will help us renew and revitalise our communities assets that are being used right now."

The motion was seconded by Councilor Betty McCleary who agreed with Cr Plumb, adding that after speaking to various members of the Bunbury community, that 2.5 per cent is a reasonable starting point for setting the 2021/22 financial budget.

"Our communities vision for Bunbury is a vibrant city and a brighter Bunbury with a lifestyle that is envied by most. Investors want progress and evidence of their money working for them and their families now," Cr McCleary said.

However several councilors debated back, saying that a 1.5 per cent increase will lessen the blow to ratepayers after no rate increase occurred during the 2020/21 financial year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan acknowledged Cr Plumb's comments and said they were correct in 'normal circumstances', but not in 'Covid circumstances'.

"I've spoken to a lot of ratepayers and there is a lot of nervousness around. We have to remember that we've come through a very challenging period and in my view it's too soon to go back to normal circumstances. I'd be supporting 2.5 per cent if it wasn't for Covid," Mayor Brennan said.

"Just look at the lockdown in Victoria in the past fortnight, there's going to be a huge impact. I hope to goodness that it doesn't happen here, but let's proceed cautiously and not consider today or this year 'normal' times. A rate increase of this size is not appropriate or affordable."

Councilor Jaysen De San Miguel concurred with Mayor Brennan on the 1.5 per cent increase and said despite having no increase in rates in the 2020/21 financial year, the council were still able to bring forward a balanced budget.

The amendment motion failed and the original recommendation was passed.