By Greg Sayers, Rodney Local Board
I recently moved to live at Snells Beach … and I’m loving the Mahurangi. This meant looking at my own budget which led to the thought of what is really so different from balancing a household budget to balancing the Council budget. Well, one significant difference is I can see exactly what “bangs-for-bucks” I’m getting. With the Council I can’t. So let’s have a look at what needs to change so that we know what value we get for our rates.
The rate take from Rodney will increase from $64 million to $70 million this year due to population growth. How much of this rate take will Rodney get back? Councillors should vote to have the breakdown of how much is being spent in Local Board areas and make that information publicly available.
Council has also added a new transport tax to our rate bill. This will collect from Rodney ratepayers an additional $3.79 million this year, with $2 million promised towards more road sealing. So the second change needed is for Council’s treasury to publicly account for how all of the $3.79 million will be spent, including if treasury actually plans to leverage that income into $30 million through long-term borrowing?
Similarly, WaterCare will be borrowing over $80 million during the next five years for Rodney projects. That’s an average of $16 million a year they will borrow to build new water systems. However, these borrowings are not serviced from our rates. They are repaid from the additional water rates we get charged. One projection is these charges will be $20 million this year for Rodney. Here’s the point, if the annual cost to service a $16 million loan is around $1.2 million a year where is the remaining $18.8 million of our water rates going? Down the drain!
So the third change that is required is for all Council Controlled Organisations (Auckland Transport, WaterCare, etc) to provide detailed reports of their monthly operational expenditure. They are currently not required to do this. Hence, there is no way Councillors or ratepayers have any idea how these Council organisations are spending our money on their daily running costs.
Action these suggested governance changes along with the Council getting back to core business; returning to normal service standards; increasing productivity; reducing high compliance costs; reducing rather than increasing borrowings; using local contractors; supporting local volunteers; reining in the wage bill; and appointing an Independent Performance Auditor to report on Council’s performance – then we might truly know what bangs we are getting for our bucks.
Until then, I look forward to seeing you around town and remember I run a monthly clinic, assisting with Council issues, at 1 Baxter Street. Please drop-in or call (toll-free) 09 301 0101 to make an appointment.