Residents react angrily to rate rise

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
The City of Albany Administration and Civiv Centre building North Road Albany.
Camera IconThe City of Albany Administration and Civiv Centre building North Road Albany. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The City of Albany’s budget for 2019-20 includes millions of dollars for roads, footpaths and sport grounds, but its proposed 2.95 per cent rate increase has drawn anger from residents online.

The draft budget, released on Tuesday, received negative reviews from Albany Advertiser readers when first reported to include the 2.95 per cent rate increase.

The rise is on par with the City’s 2018-19 increase, but is higher than the increase for 2017-18.

It was higher than most Perth local government rate increases for the 2019-20 financial year.

The increase meant the mean rate for properties across the City was predicted to be $2133.

The minimum rate for non-rural properties would increase increase $30 over last year’s fee to $1051, while the rural property minimum rate would increase from $1103 to $1136.

The 2019-2020 rates were expected to generate $38.4 million, more than $1.3 million over the previous financial year, and would assist projects including for roads, sport grounds and public safety.

Major works planned

Under the plan, $6.8 million was reserved to upgrade or repair 41 roads, including in Emu Point and on Sanford, Collingwood and Lower Denmark roads.

About $2 million was reserved for developing reserves, while more than $1.1 million was reserved to repair or build footpaths across the City, including $380,000 for works on Aberdeen Street.

About $7.9 million was included for the Middleton Beach redevelopment, plus $1.1 million in grants for Town Hall upgrades.

It also included $122,000 for the second stage of the all-abilities playground at Eyre Park in Middleton Beach, while maintenance of the beach’s swimming enclosure could cost about $70,000.

The National Anzac Centre and The Princess Royal Fortress Military Museum would receive $1 million of exhibition refreshes, while the Torbay Camp Ground would be upgraded for $100,000.

Sport facilities would receive boosts, with $3 million to develop the Centennial Park Western and Central precinct, and $180,000 to upgrade cricket nets and wickets at Collingwood Park and the Railways Football and Sporting Club ground.

Nearly $1 million was reserved for new bushfire brigade equipment.

ALAC, child care fees set to increase

However, fees for some community facilities were set to increase.

Annual membership to the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre for children and concession card holders would increase $65, with the adult fee going up $15.

Full-time day care prices at the City’s Regional Day Care Centre would increase between $10 and $15 per week.

Pet owners would see registration fees unchanged, but recovery fees from the pound were marked to increase.

Council’s payrise below 1 pc

Under the proposal, Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington and the City’s 12 councillors were set to receive pay increases.

Mr Wellington’s overall package would increase about one per cent from $135,915 to $137,269, while deputy mayor Greg Stocks’ would grow from $53,625 to $54,117.

The 11 other councillors would see similar percentage rises to $31,678 a year.

Each councillor would also see their yearly telephone, computer and communication services maximum reimbursement increase from $3208 to $3500.

Staff costs for the City over the year would total nearly $28 million.

Council is set to vote on the draft budget at its July 23 meeting.

Rates increase unpopular online

Introducing the budget, Mr Wellington said the rate increase was in-line with the City’s 10-year plan and supported “the high level of services, facilities and community projects being maintained for our local ratepayers and residents”.

However, the proposed rate increase drew widespread criticism from Albany Advertiser readers online.

Sharon Hall said the increase would hurt homeowners.

“It’s time for the council to understand that the community is struggling and to reduce rates to help our community,” she said.

Others called the rise “obscene” and “ridiculous”.

City of Albany chief executive said the rate rise was “required to achieve our community strategic vision”.

“The aim of the yearly budget is to keep in line with this financial plan and build on existing projects and essential infrastructure to ensure our community is a unique place to work, live and visit,” he said.

“The budget allows the City to continue our proven track record in delivering projects that boost our economy and give back to the community.

“(These include) the National Anzac Centre, Centennial Park Sporting Precinct, our new Visitor Centre and the Field of Light project which injected $17.18 million of visitor expenditure into the Great Southern Region.”

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