Last year, Muswellbrook Shire Council applied for a permanent increase in rates across the Shire to fund a number of projects and programs identified as community priorities. The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved Council’s application for one year and IPART has invited Council to apply for the continuation of the Special Rate Variation (SRV) and to include it permanently in the rate base.
Council is progressing with the program of works approved for funding by IPART. In order to see those projects through to completion, Council proposes to apply again to IPART to continue the SRV into the future.
Council is applying in line with the timetable set by the NSW Office of Local Government Guidelines. These Guidelines advise councils on how to seek a rate variation and require applications to be submitted to IPART by early February 2019.
Council is now seeking your feedback on the continuation of the SRV. To better understand your thoughts on this matter, Council has commissioned Jetty Research to conduct a telephone survey of at least 500 residents to gauge the level of community awareness of the proposed continuation. Calls will commence from Thursday, 18 October 2018.
You will be asked to indicate a preference between the following:
Option 1: A continuation of the Special Rate Variation – continuing permanently in the rate base IPART’s approved one-off Special Rate Variation for 2018/19 of 14.73% (including 2.3% rate peg) and increasing the 2018/19 rate base for 2019/20 by IPART’s 2.7% rate peg.
In return you will get:
- An additional allocation of $300,000 per year for stormwater drainage and $100,000 per year for roads and parks asset maintenance programs.
- Development of the Olympic Park Sports Precinct and the Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre with a combined value of $26,010,000 made up of:
- an SRV contribution of $11,800,000;
- grants of $10,500,000;
- voluntary planning agreements contributions of $3,710,000; and
- annual operational maintenance and net yearly operational contributions of $700,000
- Please note: if the above grants and voluntary planning agreements are not received or if the amounts received are less than the figures above, one or both projects may be suspended, reduced in size or cancelled and the Special Rate Variation will be revisited, and ratepayers informed of any material changes.
- An additional $250,000 towards the Job Creation program and $62,000 to offset a shortfall in rating revenues arising from a change in NSW Government policy with respect to biodiversity offsets.
Option 2: Discontinuation of the Special Rate Variation – the Special Rate Variation of 12.43% (excluding 2.3% rate peg from 2018/19) will not be continued in 2019/20 and your rates will return to the pre-SRV rating amount, which will be adjusted only by IPART’s 2019/20 rate peg of 2.7%.
In return for this option:
- There will be no additional funds available for stormwater drainage, roads or parks.
- The development of the Olympic Park Sports Precinct and the Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre will not proceed.
- No additional funds for the Job Creation program and no recovery of rates for mining biodiversity offsets.
Have your say on the proposed continuation of the Special Rate Variation
A telephone survey of residents will take place from 18 October to provide you with the opportunity to give your feedback on the continuation of the SRV and the proposed projects.
You can also participate in the online survey at https://muswellbrook2018.questionpro.com from 18 October 2018 through until 9.00AM on 5 November 2018.
The General Manager
Muswellbrook Shire Council
PO Box 122
Muswellbrook NSW 2333
It is important that you have your say. Provide your feedback by 29 November 2018 to ensure it is included in Council’s application to IPART.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Special Rate Variation?
A council may apply to the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a Special Variation (SRV) to their rates. Muswellbrook Shire Council did so last year and was granted a one-off increase and invited to apply for its continuation in 2019/20.
Didn’t Council apply for a Special Rate Variation last year?
Yes. Council made an application for a permanent increase in rates last year to fund:
- improvements in stormwater management, particularly in Denman
- upgrades to Muswellbrook’s Olympic Park precinct
- a new Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre; and
- additional support for job creation across the Shire.
IPART approved the application for one year and has invited Council to apply to continue the Special Rate Variation into the future, to ensure the full delivery of these key community projects and programs.
What is the SRV process?
The Office of Local Government establishes the guidelines, which are available at www.olg.nsw.gov.au.
The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) asses and determine each council’s application under powers delegated by the NSW Minister for Local Government.
In order to proceed with the projects and continue the SRV as approved by IPART, Council seeks feedback from the community on the proposed continuation and the projects and programs it will fund.
What am I providing feedback on?
Will financial hardship be considered in deciding to continue with the SRV?
Council has a long history of supporting residents who experience financial hardship, including those who may have a reduced capacity to pay their Council rates. This policy setting will continue and be extended to any approved change in the rating structure. While Council does not expect that the continuation of the SRV will result in a significant number of applications, those that are received will be considered against the criteria of the policy. Generally, the policy aims to provide assistance where possible, in accordance with the Local Government Act 1993 and the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005, to those ratepayers who are experiencing genuine financial difficulties in paying their rates and charges. Council also has the power to approve assistance in exceptional circumstances beyond the standards set in the policy document on a case by case basis. Earlier this year, Council elected to not pass on the SRV to farmland ratepayers in view of the prolonged drought conditions and increased the Pensioner Rebate to eligible ratepayers to cover the impact of the SRV.
What are the projects proposed for funding and why do we need them?
Improved Stormwater Infrastructure
Council’s stormwater drainage network began life in 1950 and remains to this day not fully developed. Together with the network’s age, this has resulted in a decline in its overall condition, capacity, ability to manage pollutants and control erosion and sedimentation. The pipe network consists of concrete pipes and box culverts.
Council has undertaken a comprehensive audit of the system to identify areas of need. The results are out in the following plans:
- Denman Drainage Strategy;
- Merton Street Drainage Design
- Denman Drainage Strategy Review and Upgrade Options
- Industrial Estate Drainage Design
- Possum Gully Drainage Study
- Bell Street Catchment Study
- Mill Street Catchment Study
- St Heliers Street Drainage Study
- Safety Review of Detention Basins
With the support of the community, Council will be able to provide funding for an ongoing program of works to improve stormwater management across the Shire.
Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre
After speaking with the community about the original concept, Council has incorporated your feedback into an updated plan and presented it to the community for comment as part of last year’s SRV application.
The new concept for this project includes a 500 seat theatre, stage, orchestra pit, back of house and associated car parking for Muswellbrook’s CBD. The facility will be capable of hosting travelling performances, local productions and regional conventions.
Council has held an architectural competition for the design of the Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre and entries are currently on public exhibition and you are encouraged to have your say on how the facility will look. It is proposed to be constructed at the site of the Brook Street Plaza and Council will work with existing tenants to facilitate relocation before any work commences.
The final design entries can be viewed at: https://www.muswellbrook.nsw.gov.au/index.php/2015-05-29-01-29-46/3045-regional-entertainment-and-conference-centre
Muswellbrook Olympic Park Precinct Upgrade
A master plan was developed for this popular and well utilised precinct, in close consultation with user groups. The proposed upgrades include:
- Field improvements
- Additional amenities
- Improved, safe access
- New car parking
- Additional storage
- Additional vehicle and bus connections
- Better cycleway and pedestrian connections
- Design work for a regional standard grandstand to attract larger sporting fixtures.
Has Council sought funding from the Government for these projects?
Yes. Council has applied for funding from the NSW Government to contribute to the upgrade of the Olympic Park Precinct and for the Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre, totaling around $10 million. Both funding proposals are dependent upon the continuation of the SRV being approved.