Hamilton City Council is proposing to maintain a 3.8% average annual rates increase.
After two days of meetings, Council finalised its draft Back on Track – COVID-19 response budget and adopted its draft annual plan to go out for consultation. A final decision on the budget, including rates will be made on 10 August.
Councillors considered an average annual rates increase of 2.8% but voted 7-6 to stick with the 3.8% average annual rate increase that was budgeted in the 2018-28 10-Year Plan.
The draft budget is based on projects and spending outlined in year 3 of the 2018-28 10-Year Plan that was signed off in July 2018. However, Council voted to also include the following additional projects in this year’s budget:
- $830,000 for resource to support the waters, transport and rubbish and recycling activities.
- $550,000 to support the work of the economic development and environment programmes.
- $100,000 to assist community groups volunteering to improve natural areas
- $75,000 for the development of a Maaori strategy and for extending existing partnerships.
- $35,0000 for the Enderley Park community-led engagement on options for the Enderley Park Community centre.
- $50,000 to support the community land trust.
- $40,000 to extend resourcing for council and civic events.
- $400,000 in additional revenue from providing more central city parking.
A proposal to increase the Council’s minimum wage for all staff directly employed by the Council to match the living wage rate was also approved. The proposal would see the hourly rate for around 240 of Council’s lowest paid staff lifted from $20 to $22.10.
Council approved $62.8 million of capital deferrals, pushing 12 projects that were planned to start in the next 12 months to the next financial year. Deferred projects include an upgrade of the Hamilton Transport Centre and a new boardwalk at the Victoria on the River park.
From the original list of staff recommended deferrals, the Council voted to retain two projects, a portion of the Eastern Pathways (school and university cycling and walking link development) and mass transit transport improvements.
A total of $299.8M of capital work will continue over the next 12 months, which Mayor Paula Southgate said would help get support Hamilton’s economy.
Councillors also deferred demolition of the Municipal pools for one year.
Council also approved specific savings, including reducing digitisation of the library heritage collection and closing public display houses at the Hamilton Gardens nursery.
A significant part of the Council’s COVID-19 response budget is $1.1M earmarked for targeted relief for ratepayers, businesses and community groups struggling with the effects of COVID-19.
The budget also includes $7.3M of operational savings from more efficient processes, cutting travel and training costs and freezing wages for Council staff earning more than $70,000 per year.
Also open for feedback is a proposal to change the Council’s policy that addresses rates remissions to allow rebates for Hamiltonians suffering hardship because of COVID-19.
Mayor Paula Southgate said she had pushed for a number of savings “some of which were supported by my colleagues and others which were not.”
“We can’t cry austerity, and then keep spending. It doesn’t work like that. But in general, I think what we have all tried to do is look out for those people who most need our help, and protect our essential services while continuing to invest in critical parts of our city,” she said.
“Now’s it up to the community to have their say and I certainly hope they do.”
Hamiltonians can share their feedback on the plan from 22 June – 10 July by visiting Hamilton.govt.nz/haveyoursay, completing a feedback form in the 24 June edition of Hamilton Press newspaper, or picking up a hardcopy from the Council Office or any Hamilton City Library.