Significant changes made to draft Annual Plan: Anti-social activity affects 2008/09 budget - 6/06/2008Mayor Michael Laws today released details of the changes made to the Wanganui District Council 2008/09 Annual Plan, as a result of public submissions and community priorities, and made the point that "the rise in anti-social activity in the city is going to affect ratepayers and community groups alike over the next 12 months".
"The truth is that council re-examined our financial assumptions around the issues of tagging, vandalism, littering and other anti-social behaviour. The end result is that council unanimously resolved to increase the provision of CCTV cameras, upgrade lighting in certain public areas, increase security budgets and appoint an enforcement officer."
The cost of these new measures is an additional $245,000 in the 2008/09 financial year.
"Making our city and community safer was the prime imperative at yesterday's council meeting. Given the gaps in policing and enforcement, we are given no option but to plug the gaps. And for every dollar we spend in this area, that's a dollar less that community groups get or the ratepayer can keep in their pocket."
Mayor Laws said that he estimated that policing and preventing anti-social behaviour, plus repairing the damage, "was worth at least 1% of that 4.7% average rates increase".
A motion was passed by council yesterday to itemise the actual cost to every ratepayer of anti-social activity and damage on their rates bill.
Major capital additions to the draft Annual Plan 2008/09 included:
- an upgrade of the Sarjeant Art Gallery ($150,000)
- improving drainage at the Laird Park netball courts($41,000)
- upgrading the council's data systems ($100,000)
New operational expenditure in the 2008/09 financial year, on top of that already flagged in the draft Annual Plan, includes:
- Increased interest and inflation charges ($94,000)
- Upgrade of graffiti and vandalism teams, CCTV upgrade, enforcement officer, security monitoring and establishment of 'city rangers' ($245,000)
- Audit Office requirements re building valuations ($70,000)
- Further research on Events Centre proposal ($50,000)
- Funding an arts strategy including an arts development officer ($50,000)
- Funding a Wanganui Visitor Strategy ($50,000)
- Retaining external directors for Wanganui Holdings Ltd ($50,000)
- Paying Wharf Street rentals for recreational fishers ($27,000)
- Grant to the Wanganui East Pool Trust ($20,000)
The overall impact of the changes made to the draft Annual Plan, and formally adopted as the Annual Plan 2008/09, is an average rates increase for 2008/09 of 4.7% - exactly matching the inflation project for the next 12 months by Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard.
"There are some noteworthy aspects to the deliberations of yesterday. First, we are seeking to mandate our family-friendly philosophy and that drove many of the decisions yesterday.
"Second, that a number of groups seeking additional funds will be disappointed but have second chances if they apply to the council's community grants scheme or impact fund programmes. These allocate $80,000 and $200,000 respectively over the next 12 months.
"Third, that we expect the Wanganui economy – in line with national trends – to slow and possibly contract over the next 12 months. That will cause financial pressures upon the community and we could not contemplate a rates rise above that of inflation."
Mayor Laws said that the lack of central government action on the Shand Inquiry into Rates "does this administration no credit. Our ratepayers are paying for new responsibilities being loaded onto us all the time by central government. We estimate that burden at $1.5 million per annum. It is grossly unfair".