This is the last week of the current council therefore the last Mayoral Column for this term of office. I thank everyone for their support over the past few years. During this last week of campaigning by the prospective candidates I have been asked many questons in an attempt by the community to clarify some of the claims being made. For your information I will address the main ones here. Much has been spoken of the neccesity to reduce farmland rates, rates are governed by the value of the ratepayers land, (which has been revalued twice in 2 years by the Valuer General) there is a pool of rates that is required by legislation to be collected by councils based on the land values of their LGA’s. To accommodate a lowering of the farm rate other sections within this pool such as residential or business rates would need to be increased. Even if council, in the unlikely event were to be allowed by IPART to reduce rates – I have heard no mention from the proponents of this idea of a strategy to account for this loss of revenue, no mention of which services would need to be cut or fees and charges increased, no mention of maintenance of staff positions, no mention of road infrastructure that would by neccessity be downgraded in line with available funding. It is very easy to make grandious statements when not required to back up those statements with any plan to implement them. I will take this opportunty to mention to the community that the Town Improvement Levy which has been paid by “in town” residents for a number of years is in the last year of implementation, this was always due to come to an end after this financial year. Another issue of concern appears to be the level of debt carried by council and how this will icrease substantially over the next few years, where this assertion comes from is a mysyery to me. When we went through the Fit for the Future process it was deemed by IPART that Oberon Council was financially fit and had the capacity to implement substantial borrowings that would build infrastructure for the community and lower the deemed infrastructure backlog. The OLG urged council to raise funds for this purpose. This we did, the $4.5 million loan alluded to by some candidates refers to a grant from the NSW Government to substantially upgrade and increase the capacity of the current water/sewerage plant. This grant was required to be matched dollar for dollar hence it appears as a pseudo commitment in the budget, however the $4.5 million council contribution may not necessarily need to be secured by a loan but from other sources. This is a long term project and will be completed in stages. Can I say that future budgets are a projection only – a bit like the infamous KPMG Report touted throughout the amalgamation process - based on a series of predictions. These future budget predictions do not include such things as probable grant funding opportunities or actual cost savings gained throughout the organisation etc, the budgets are adjusted annually to reflect these and other tangibles, in other words when actual adjusted annual budgets are bought down they often look a bit different to the earlier predictions. The financial reports of council are required by the Act to be presented in the way they currently are, councils have no choice in this and anyone who believes otherwise is ill informed and has obviously carried out little or no meaningful research into how a local council is required to perform and report. I hope these explanations have settled any community concern, if not please take the opportunity to come along and chat to either myself or staff.
It has been a pleasure to participate through the year in the graduation ceremonies of the Gurnang Life Challenge, a brilliant young offenders program run at the Oberon Correctional Service. I am a huge fan of this program and congratulate not only the participants but the staff who implement it.
Watch out for the “Run Against Violence” marathon which will be passing through Oberon on September 13. Solo ultra marathon runner Kirrily Dear will run 1300kms from Broken Hill to Sydney to start a public conversation on the impact of domestic vilence on children. You can support Kirrily by going to website www.runagainstviolence.com. Council and other local businesses are supporting this worthy event.
Mayor Kathy Sajowitz