Coorong council rates to go up three per cent in 2019-20

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

Limiting the effect of rate rises on struggling farmers is a focus for the Coorong council in its draft budget for 2019-20.

The council will increase property rates by three per cent.

But it will also introduce a 10 per cent cap on rates bill increases for all property owners, previously available only to households, to counteract the effect of rising property values.

On average, Mayor Paul Simmons said, primary producers faced a 16 per cent increase in property values, determined by the state Valuer-General.

"Primary producers are a significant contributor to our regional economy, with 40 per cent of people employed in the district working in the sector, so it's vital we continue to support them," he said.

"We know things are challenging for many in our community and we don't want to add to that financial strain, so we have proposed a minimal rate increase."

The council will not start any new infrastructure projects without first securing state or federal grant funding, "in order to remain both progressive and sustainable".

However, over the long term, Cr Simmons acknowledged the council would not be able to pay its debts unless it raised more revenue and/or cut spending.

It will record a $1.4 million deficit over the next year, even after reducing its expenditure by a projected $260,000.

It has also delayed a planned replacement of Coonalpyn's public toilet until 2020-21, though a sewage system upgrade will proceed.

The council's finance committee will begin reviewing council services to look for efficiencies.

First up will be a review of council assets - buildings and so on - to check whether any are surplus to requirements.

The council will also review its rates policies to find the most equitable way of sharing the financial burden.

Bright spots in the budget include extra spending on upgrading and maintaining unsealed roads, $613,000 for land management projects through the Coorong Tatiara LAP, $370,000 for water security projects for farmers, and $125,000 for an upgrade of Dickson Reserve at Tailem Bend.

Note: An earlier version of this story stated an upgrade of the sewage system beneath Coonalpyn's toilet had been delayed until 2020-21. The upgrade will go ahead, but the construction of a new toilet block has been delayed.