Strong Finances: Rates Under Control

I won't make wild promises but I WILL work hard to control Council spending and rates!

In my mayoral campaign I’d love to say "I will reduce your rates, I'll keep your rates in line with inflation". But the Mayor, like everyone else, has only one vote and I simply won't promise what I, alone, cannot guarantee to deliver. Neither should other candidates.

What I can promise however, is that I am 100% committed to keeping Council costs and rates under control. I am 100 % committed to long term rates certainty and there would not be a shocking proposed 19%  increase in my time as Mayor. Nor will there be unexpected and costly new projects that the community has not had a say in.

Council MUST provide for the needs of our city today. But we must also invest wisely in a strong future in which business, communities and people thrive. Hard questions must be asked but pretending we don’t have pressure and problems to solve won’t help us. As Mayor, I want to be open and talk early about those challenges.

It is not okay to let existing city assets fall into disrepair as we have seen over the past eight years. People constantly tell me they were unhappy with the closure of Founders, the Municipal Pools, the poor state of Waterworld, the state of our footpaths and more.

I don't blame you. We must look after what we have, and keep it to a standard befitting of one of New Zealand’s biggest cities. Who wants a pool with 35 year old filtration, with no acoustic tiles and flooring that is crumbling under your feet? How was this allowed to happen?  We wouldn’t let it happen to our houses; why did we let it happen to our city?

Over the past three  years I’ve argued strongly for the maintenance of existing assets. I pushed for the early repair and renewal of the Central Library and Waterworld to restore them to a standard that Hamiltonians deserve. Delaying maintenance, repairs and renewals does not progress the city, - - it simply drives costs up.

Tighter control of spending, working smarter to keep rates increases as low as possible.

We have a lot of aging assets that need putting right. The current Mayor has acknowledged there are major stormwater and sewerage issues in the oldest parts of your city. Raw sewage on your lawn of extreme flooding in rain events? It is simply not right!

Sound financial planning also requires a focus on the maintenance of existing assets while setting clear objectives for investment in assets needed match the City’s growth. We are a fast growing city with a huge demand for housing ( especially affordable housing). This will require sound investment but we must maintain high standards of accountability, transparency and integrity in all funding decision making. We must be clear about the short and long-term implications of all funding choices. 

Hamiltonians deserve rates certainty, not unexpected, big increases. Ratepayers should not be expected to bear the burden of expensive pet projects. I love our riverside but I did NOT agree that spending $6.4m of ratepayers money on private property at a time of big financial pressures was the right thing to do. I voted against it.

I also pushed for a lower, slower transition to capital rates to help ratepayers better plan for and cope with the change. My efforts and those of some other councillors meant a proposed 17% rate increase that the Mayor wanted came down to a 9.8% increase in the first year and a 3.8% increase going forward. But it was hard work and there were some big battles to get there.

Let’s remember we have $344m debt. Debt is not all bad because it allows us to get stuff done today when it is needed. But the reality is, debt must be repaid. 

To keep rates low  we must focus on sound purchasing and contracting, avoiding waste and duplication, and accurate financial forecasting. There is more that can be done. I know that with today's technologies we can and should be working smarter and faster, driving down costs while meeting the needs of our people. Time is money. Let’s get smarter.

The Chief Executive has pledged to find $93m savings over 10 years. He’s off to a good start this year, but I for one, will be keeping him absolutely on track going forward.

As Mayor, I want to buckle down and focus on the future.  When propositions are put in front of me I’ll always ask, “is it fair?” And “is it affordable?”.

If it’s neither of those things then I won’t support it.


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