LAKE Macquarie residents and businesses are bracing for the largest rate rises on record in NSW.
Lake city council staff have recommended a residential rise of almost 70 per cent over seven years, with businesses facing about 90 per cent over the same period.
The council said its surveys showed more than two-thirds of residents supported a larger than ordinary rate increase and, if approved tomorrow, the extra money would improve infrastructure and services.
But some residents believe the council should stop wasting money and continue to cut costs.
Council officials fear Lake Macquarie will have a bleak future of decay and decline if a significant rate rise is not introduced.
Councillors will choose one of three rate-rise options, which will be submitted to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for consideration.
Council staff have recommended councillors approve option three – the biggest rate increase.
The option includes increasing council debt from $58 million in 2011-12 to $185 million by 2018-19.
Council corporate services director Wayne Jack said Lake Macquarie council was the fourth biggest council in NSW with big infrastructure needs.
‘‘If it is granted it would be the biggest rate rise, but we’re not worried about that because we have the community’s support for it,’’ he said.
Council staff have recommended residential rates increase by 9.8 per cent on average every year for seven years, which equates to a 68.4 per cent rise over that period.
Council figures suggest average residential rates would increase from $950 this financial year to $1600 in 2018-19.
Council staff recommended business rates increase by 12.8 per cent on average every year for seven years, which amounts to a 89.4 per cent rise. Business rates would rise from $3299 on average this financial year, to $6249 in 2018-19.
Several local government industry contacts said it would be the largest rate rise in NSW.
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal chief executive Jim Cox said Waverley Council’s approved 40 per cent rise over three years was the biggest in NSW he knew about.
Mr Jack said Lake council staff backed a total increase in rate income of about 57 per cent to be spread across seven years.
He said 3257 residents had responded to surveys about the rate rise plan, with half supporting the biggest rate rise proposal or ‘‘option three’’.
He said 72 per cent of participants supported a rate rise above 3 per cent a year.
“This confirms that Lake Macquarie residents do not want to see council services cut or assets sold,’’ Mr Jack said.
Charlestown resident Kevin Thompson said residents would ‘‘feel adverse effects’’ for many years if a big rate rise proceeded.
* Rates up by 3% a year, on average, for 7 years
* 123 council jobs cut
* Close performing arts centre, 5 libraries and 2 pools; reduce mowing, weed killing, graffiti removal, pothole patching, erosion control and litter collection
* End sustainability programs; close economic development department and visitor information centre; no town centre upgrades
* Residential rates up by 7.7% and business rates up by 9.9% a year, on average, for 7 years
* Infrastructure maintained at current levels for 3 years then construction and maintenance programs increase
* Staff levels retained; sustainability programs continue; libraries stay open in short-term
* Residential rates up by 9.8% and business rates by 12.8% a year, on average, for 7 years
* Improved pools, libraries, parks and playgrounds; new libraries at Glendale and Morisset; upgraded town centres; more council rangers; quicker response to vandalism, potholes, drainage clearing; more street sweeping and public toilet cleaning; sustainability programs continue.