Rate rise divides Hobsons Bay council

Deputy mayor and chartered accountant Daria Kellander. (Joe Mastroianni) 232218_01

Goya Dmytryshchak

Hobsons Bay council’s draft 2021-22 budget has been narrowly passed by four votes to three, with some councillors expressing concern at an accumulative 3.5 per cent rate rise over two years.

This year’s proposed average general rate rise is 1.5 per cent in line with the state government’s rate cap.

However, council documents note that last year’s “one-off rate adjustment in 2020-21 has been removed” and “it acknowledged that its removal could be considered to increase the overall rate rise in 2021-22”.

Cr Tony Briffa asked last week’s council meeting if last year’s 2 per cent rate rise would apply this year and was told it would be accumulated into this year’s rate rise.

“I opposed the 2 per cent residential rate increase last year; it’s no surprise I continue to oppose that 2 per cent this year,” they said.

“I also oppose the additional 1.5 per cent increase proposed for the 2021-22 year.

“This is not in my opinion – and, hell what would I know – but this is not the time to increase rates in my opinion.

“Lots of residents have been impacted by the pandemic. Many people have lost their jobs, been made underemployed, made to retire early, lost businesses, careers have been delayed by younger people, etcetera.

“If I look at pensioners and our most vulnerable people, they are doing it really tough. These people are on fixed incomes.

“Their hard-earned savings continue to reduce yet their bills continue to rise year after year after.

“I’m not sure that the ‘Hobsons Bay has Heart’ [campaign] is actually reflected in this budget given the successive residential rate increases during a pandemic, which is unfortunately not over by a long shot.”

Deputy mayor and chartered accountant Daria Kellander said, “I can’t support a rates rise during COVID”.

“Well, the argument might be that the council needs a bigger surplus to reinvest back into the community as capital works – how much of a surplus is enough,” she said.

“If we look back to the 2018-19 budget and look at the surplus that was being forecast for the 2021-22 year at that stage, it was forecasting $16.3 million.

“The latest budget is forecasting a surplus of $27.4 million – that’s $11 million higher, $11 million more than we have today.

“Last year, Maribyrnong froze their 2 per cent rate raise. Hobsons Bay simply Band-aided it with a $20 rebate to every household.

“According to last year’s budget, Maribyrnong was forecasting a surplus of $18.6 million for the 2021-22 year. Hobsons Bay is now forecasting $8.8 million higher than that, so how much money is enough?”

Cr Diana Grima said she was against the rate rise because of “COVID and job losses”.

“I think we should decrease our rates,” she said.

The draft budget will be out for public feedback until May 14 and is expected to be decided on at the council meeting on June 8.

The full council meeting of April 20 can be heard via the Hobsons Bay council website.