Waikato Regional Council today signed off on its 2012-2022 Long Term Plan, cutting more than $770,000 from next year’s proposed budget while maintaining a range of service improvements.
Chairman Peter Buckley said the council had developed a sound plan to advance the region’s environmental and economic priorities.
“We have done a good job of containing costs while improving services to our communities across a range of activities such as water management, pest management, coastal area planning, civil defence and river catchment and drainage work,” Cr Buckley said.
The draft plan that went out for community consultation in March proposed an average 3.9 per cent rates increase to existing ratepayers for the financial year beginning 1 July 2012. However, this was reduced to 3.4 per cent after three days of deliberations ending today.
Councillors reduced the second and third year budgets by $1.14 million, arriving at forecast rates increases of 3.9 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively to existing ratepayers.
During deliberations councillors debated the programmes and projects designed to help achieve the council’s three strategic goals of sustaining land and water values, regional development and co-management with iwi.
They also took into account 559 written submissions and those of the 120 people who appeared before them during three days of hearings in Hamilton and Thames earlier this month.
The 3.4 per cent increase for year one of the plan includes:
After considerable debate, the council decided to reduce the amount of money it collects from rural ratepayers on behalf of the Animal Health Board (AHB), but to extend the collection period from one to two years.
The council had proposed to continue collecting the $825,000 requested by the AHB for the 2012/13 year only.
However, the council decided today to reduce the amount to $650,000 but to extend the assistance to the AHB by a further year, continuing the collection in 2013/14 giving the AHB more time to transition to an alternative funding mechanism.
The reduction in the amount collected maintains funding for the council’s own biodiversity enhancement programmes which was to have been cut in order to release funds for the AHB work.
Key services and costs in the plan include:
Offsetting the impact of the service increases on rates is:
The council also decided to defer planning, design and contractual work on a proposed new building in Hamilton pending further information about local government reform. This means $1.53 million budgeted for preliminary scoping and design work has been removed from the 2012/13 and 2013/14 budgets.
Extra frontline staff required to undertake activities required by legislation or requested by the community resulted in a proposal to increase staff numbers by 33.1 full time equivalents in 2012/13. This has been reduced to 29.6 full time equivalents, with the some of the required work to be contracted out.
The council will adopt the final plan on Thursday 28 June after audit review.