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MX News Update 2024

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No surprising feedback and valuable ideas about the Council’s long-term plan

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate expresses her appreciation for the ideas Hamiltonians have shared on the draft of Council’s long-term plan.

Nearly 3,000 residents and organizations took the opportunity to express their opinions from March 19 to April 21. The themes of the submissions received during the consultation were presented to elected members at an information session last week.

Council asked for feedback from the community on a range of issues, including plans for managing the city’s finances, and whether costs should be further reduced, which is likely to impact what the community delivers.

Mayor Paula Southgate said the submitters made good points and asked good questions.

“As expected, transportation projects such as cycle paths and speed bumps have attracted a lot of attention. This has largely been resolved. I had already pressed stop or reduced these types of new projects. Deputy Mayor Angela and I proposed a new, improved framework for approving transportation projects, which has been implemented by Council, with much greater focus on community input.

“I’ve also read some good ideas about user payments, which I think we should explore.”

prices

The Council is proposing an average rate increase of 19.9% ​​($11 per week for an average value home) in 2024/25, and 15.5% for the next four years (2025/26 to 2028/29). The increases would allow the Council to balance its books (daily costs paid from daily revenues) and stay within its debt-to-revenue ceiling within three years.

  • Unsurprisingly, a large number of comments in the submissions felt that the rate increases were too high. Of the 2,992 comments received, 1,111 comments included comments on the level of proposed rate increases, and 420 comments suggested that the Council reduce spending.
  • More than 300 responses were critical of transportation infrastructure, such as elevated safety platforms, cycle lanes and in-lane bus stops.
  • However, there were 378 responses supporting or understanding the proposed approach to managing finances, including the proposed rate increase.

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“I hear loud and clear that the proposed rate increases are clearly unaffordable for many, especially those on fixed incomes,” said Mayor Southgate.

“For me, the impact on taxpayers is very important. I have asked staff to continue to work hard to find savings and take another look at our capital program to see what additional projects can be deferred, especially in the first five years.”

Lower rate increases would leave the Council with few levers to pull – reducing what it plans to deliver for the city, or delaying balancing the books, which would lead to more debt and interest costs.

“There is no easy solution to the pressures we and councils across New Zealand face, but we must be absolutely cost-effective in what we always do,” Mayor Southgate said.

The Council reduces its costs

Respondents were also asked whether they supported the Council reducing costs with a likely impact on services, saving an average of $10.4 million per year.

  • 48% of respondents were in favor of the Council cutting costs by reducing its services, but 33% said they would prefer to see the Council’s services retained.
  • The most frequently mentioned category of services that respondents wanted the Council to reduce or eliminate was transport, with 782 responses suggesting a reduction. On the other hand, 421 responses requested no discount on transportation.
  • Other services that respondents were reluctant to see reduced or removed were waste and recycling (590 responses), water services (444 responses), parks and recreation (423 responses) and community services (375 responses, of which 296 mentioned libraries).

A walking and cycling bridge

Council sought feedback on moving forward with its plans to build a walking and cycling bridge over the Waikato River in the central city. Of the 2,580 respondents who shared their thoughts, 1,538 were generally against building the bridge, 682 were generally in favor, and 452 comments were neutral.

Targeted rates for additional services

The Council asked whether respondents were in favor of providing additional services that would be financed through targeted rates.

  • 1,320 respondents (47%) were against funding additional community infrastructure projects through a targeted rate, while 1,067 respondents (38%) were in favor. Of these, 829 would support a target rate of 40 cents per week for a median value home, and 238 would support a target rate of 80 cents per week for a median value home.
  • 1,328 respondents (47%) did not want additional community resilience and extreme weather projects to be funded. 1142 respondents (41%) were in favor. Of these, 884 would support a target rate of 40 cents per week for a median value home, and 258 would support a target rate of 80 cents per week for a median value home.

Next steps

Oral views will be heard from May 15 to 17. The Council will then consider all feedback from the community. The Council will meet on July 4, 2024 to adopt the 2024-2034 long-term plan and set the rates for 2024-2025.

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