Geraldton’s council has passed its budget for the next financial year, featuring a “modest” rate rise, $21 million in renewal projects and $16m in capital projects.
The City of Greater Geraldton council met on Tuesday to vote on the 2022-23 budget, the motion passing without amendment.
The average ratepayer can expect a 3.6 per cent increase on their last bill, but residents with properties in suburbs like Strathalbyn could pay up to 20 per cent more on next financial year’s rates.
It is understood this is due in part to State property revaluations which will see Geraldton hit by an average 20 per cent rise in rental values. To offset this, council agreed to reduce the rate-in-the-dollar by 16 per cent.
The rates increase is expected to result in a 5 per cent increase in revenue, with $50.33m to be collected from ratepayers.
The cash will go towards re-sheeting and upgrading roads, the Meru Landfill Waste diversion infrastructure, implementing the Spalding Precinct Plan, the continued rollout of the Food and Garden Organic Waste trial, the reintroduction of verge rubbish collections, improvements to parks, reserves and public open spaces, as well as funding the Chapman Road Cycle Path project.
The minimum rate payment will remain at $1027, with the City also adopting one GRV rate category instead of having separate categories for residential and non-residential properties.
Deputy mayor Jerry Clune said while there were always going to be winners and losers when setting rates, the 2022-23 budget was “well-balanced”.
“We’re all about providing services and assets to the community, and last couple of years we’ve suffered from not being able to meet a lot of the services because of circumstances like COVID and Seroja,” he said.
“We’ve got to match the expectations of ratepayers as well as how we can manage all that, I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the last couple of years, it’s been tough on everybody,” he said.
Cr Kim Parker spoke against the motion, saying he didn’t think a pay increase for councillors was warranted until the new reforms came into effect to reduce councillor numbers from 12 to 8.
“We shouldn’t increase mayor and council’s pay just because we have a side business that we need to pay for,” he said.
“To me it’s like Robin Hood as councillors, we just keep taking from the rich to give for our own benefits.
“Maybe some of us like the money, not the honour of being a City councillor elected by the people to serve the community for our future generations,” he said.
The mayor’s full annual allowance, including meeting attendance fees and expenses, is $134,504 up from $126,500 in 2021-22, while councillors’ attendance fees increased from $27,000 to $32,470.
Mayor Shane Van Styn defended the increase, highlighting the fact that councillors in Kalgoorlie and Albany are paid 30 per cent more than Geraldton councillors.
“We are also abolishing the $3500 communications allowance which makes up around 15 per cent of council revenue,” he said.
“We have to focus on delivering the basics, this budget goes to the suburbs, it goes to delivering the paths that are needed, maintaining the rural roads that are needed, our coastal protection works.
“There is in this budget, no big brand new shiny essential things, yes it’s going to be nice to see a path, State funded, going from Drummonds to Sunset Beach.
“But overall, it’s actually a grassroots budget that will allow us to deliver the services that our community ever so want.”