by Tim Howard
SOUTH Grafton residents are putting their names on the line to oppose a proposed Clarence Valley Council special rates rise that will increase their base rate by 26% over three years.
The deadline for public submissions on a suite of council planning documents, which have been on public exhibition for two weeks, arrived yesterday.
A key part of the council's plans has been an 8% rate rise over three years, which compounds to a 26% increase in the base rate at the end of the SRV period in 2021.
Under pressure from the State Government to become Fit for the Future, the council is seeking more than $15 million through rates rises and service cuts.
The petition, which called on signatories to say no to the rate rise, was placed in five businesses in Skinner St, South Grafton.
South Grafton businesswoman Annie Dodd instigated the petition this week as part of her submission to the council.
She had collected 144 signatures from just one of the venues by 10am yesterday.
She said there were a number of reasons she was opposed to the rate rise.
"Why did they show us figures averaged over 10 years in the spreadsheet they put out at their community consultation?” she said. "The period of the SRV increase is actually three years.
"The Clarence Valley is still about the fourth poorest area in NSW. We have empty shops and people struggling, yet the council wants to put up rates.”
She was also disappointed the council had "threatened” ratepayers with the prospect of an administrator if the rates rise did not go ahead.
Across the road a co-owner of South Grafton News and Gifts, Brad Layton, said the council had little choice, but was happy to have the petition in his shop.
"I've sat down and gone through this with the mayor and council staff and they don't have a choice really,” he said.
But Mr Layton was not confident the council would spend any extra money wisely, based on its track record.
"Where's the guarantee they're not going to waste even more money,” he said.
"But if we have an administrator appointed the community is going to be really disappointed.”