Port Stephens councillors approve the development of a special rate variation application

Residents will be asked to provide their view on Port Stephens Council’s application for a special rate variation (SRV) when community consultation begins later this month.

Councillors voted to approve the development of a SRV application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal at Tuesday’s ordinary meeting, supportive that the funds raised would be used to rejuvenate town centres and deliver major new infrastructure, increased services and new facilities.

“Port Stephens is a place people want to live, work and play, but with that comes an increased need for council to deliver enhanced services, infrastructure and facilities to our community,” Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said.

“This is an exciting time, we have a unique opportunity to deliver for Port Stephens on a scale that’s not been seen before – the projects we are proposing will deliver local jobs, stimulate our local economy, encourage business growth and enhance our town centres which benefit all within our community.

“Council is continuing to explore funding options by applying for grant funding from all tiers of government, lobbying the NSW Government and Opposition for more funding and consulting the community on an application for a potential special rate variation.

If its application is successful, the council can vary its general income by an amount greater than the annual rate peg (maximum percentage amount that a council can increase its general income for the year). 

There are two special variations under the Local Government Act 1993:

  1. Under section 508A, a successive annual percentage increase over a period of between 2 and 7 years. These may be permanent or temporary.
  2. Under section 508(2), a single year percentage increase that may be either permanent or temporary. The Office of Local Government establishes guidelines for applying for special variations.

The Independent Pricing and Regularity Tribunal assesses and determines special variation applications by councils.

Applications are assessed under five criteria:

  1. Demonstrated financial need for and purpose of the SRV;
  2. Demonstrated community awareness and engagement;
  3. Reasonable impact on ratepayers;
  4. Integrated Planning and Reporting documents publicly exhibited and adopted by Council;
  5.  Clear productivity improvements and cost containment strategies

As part of the application process, the council will run a community consultation process. Residents will begin receiving direct communication about the SRV application before community engagement activities start in late July.

“We have nearly 20 community engagement activities planned over the coming months including community meetings, information sessions and formal feedback activities,” Cr Palmer said.

“We’re going out to the community to listen; and I strongly encourage all of the community to take part in these activities.”

The draft SRV will go on public exhibition from Monday, July 23 to Friday,  August 24.