RATES DECISION: Councillors to vote tonight
LISMORE City Council will vote tonight on whether to increase rates.
Councillors are expected to vote upon whether to stick to the rate peg set by IPART, support a staggered increase of 7.5, 9.4, 3.9 and 3.2 per cent increases over four years, or approve an increase over two years of 17 per cent in the 2020/21 financial year and 6.9 per cent the following year.
Councillors were due to vote on the issue last week, but the decision was delayed due to the bushfires and the number of absent councillors.
Councillor Greg Bennett was unable to attend the meeting, due to the potential threat of the fires, and the pre-approved leave of Crs Eddie Lloyd and Adam Guise, it was decided the Special Rate Variation vote be adjourned.
Mayor Isaac Smith told the almost full council chambers the decision to postpone the SRV vote for a week was due to the missing councillors.
"Due to the current fires, we're down on numbers," Cr Smith said.
"Hopefully next week with a better spread of councillors to discuss that very important issue."
Despite the adjournment, public access still went ahead with four people speaking against the rate increase and one person in favour.
Resident Keith Graham told the council it should consider the financial struggles of its residents.
"Shame on you that this rate increase proposal has gotten to this stage," Mr Graham said.
"Everyone here is doing it tough.
"The farmers are facing the worse drought we've seen here.
"None of us can pass these increases on, if you're a landlord we can't pass it onto our tenants."
While acknowledging the work council has done since the General Manager Shelley Oldham started her role, resident Janine Wilson said she felt the council needed to ensure it addressed how it managed to fall into this financial difficulty.
"I recognise that you're wedged," Ms Wilson said.
"I know you all consider things and I trust that you do what you think is right.
"But you've got to look at what is wrong.
"There's something wrong in the way this council runs that chews up money."
Meanwhile, a former Lismore resident, Colin Lyte, said he hoped council would approve the rates increase after he was forced to leave the area due to the lack of economic development.
Despite Cr Nancy Casson criticising Mr Lyte's decision to speak about a rate increase when he isn't a ratepayer anymore, Mr Lyte said he hoped to return to Lismore if he saw the region regain financial strength.
"After 19 years I moved to the coast for work opportunities and the general well-being of the family," Mr Lyte said.
"Asking the community for more money is a very serious thing but this area needs proper structure and economic planning so this area can grow."
Deputy Mayor Elly Bird supported the motion to adjourn the meeting because of the severity of the bush fires facing the community at large.
"I don't think it's appropriate for us to make a decision of this magnitude while people are evacuating," she said.
Cr Smith indicated next week's meeting is not designed to offer public access, however he will enquire with staff whether public access could be an option.
The council is expected to meet again on Tuesday, November 19, to decide whether to approve or reject the SRV.