Most of us realise that the rising costs of many commodities such as fuel, construction materials and electricity are beyond our control.
Our shire council also has to pay these rising costs, plus extra expenditure which cannot be budgeted for, such as major road repairs required as a result of exceptionally heavy rainfall over the past few months, and extra expenses imposed by the state government such as ongoing maintenance of roadways which were previously state highways, and responsibility for the shire's Rural Fire Service vehicles.
The various ways of reducing the council's current budget deficit include selling off council assets such as land and buildings, reducing council services, and increasing rates and charges.
Savings have already been made by reducing staff numbers, adapting multi-tasking for employees, and cancelling co-funded development projects.
Some residents now demand that there should be no increase in rates and charges, in spite of the obvious unavoidable increases in expenditure, and forthcoming essential upgrades to various facilities.
Proposals to reduce staff and expenses ("as long as it doesn't affect me") are made without specific informed suggestions, and claims that any rises in rates and charges would lead to widespread serious financial hardship deserve sensitive investigation before being accepted.
Our councillors are sufficiently concerned with the prospect of a major increase in rates and charges to have voted in early February to delay until the next financial year any application to increase rates above the annual 0.7% increase allowed by the state government, and at forthcoming workshops councillors will consider further reduction of staff numbers and operational expenses and the sale or repurposing of council assets in order to help minimise any adverse effects on ratepayers.
Our rates are considerably lower than our neighbouring shires, so amalgamation with another shire would be a major backward step, and
if we complain enough to warrant the appointment of a council administrator the results would be even more damaging to all residents, and should be avoided at all costs.
We all want to stay solvent and minimise financial hardship, especially to those managing on a tight budget, but if you want to criticise and influence our council and its financial situation, get the true facts first and ignore the rumours which continue to flourish in a confusion of inaccurate and distorted information.
Peter Robinson, Tenterfield
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