A full council meeting was held on 13 March. This was solely to pass the annual plan. Much of which had been subject to discussions at earlier workshops.
Councillor’s Mirfin and Norriss submitted their apologies. All other councillors were in attendance.
Draft Annual Plan
This meeting confirmed the 2014-15 draft annual plan, which has since been published (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/draft-annual-plan-2014-2015-and-draft-rates-policies-submissions/). Submissions close on Tuesday 15 April 2014 at 4:30pm.
In effect, it sets the expected budgets for council expenditure. From a ratepayer’s perspective it is all about the amount of rates one has to pay. I went into the process with the aim of containing any rates increases between 2.0% to 2.5%. I admit it was an aggressive target for this council, based on the last decade of rates increases, but a good starting point. But we must aim to keep rates increases as low as possible (ideally well below the consumer price index (CPI)), so that over time, our total rates bill will become more comparable to that of Nelson. At present it is much higher.
I also realise that council is very much like steering a container ship. Its a big vessel and will take a little time to turn her around. However, if we maintain our course of continually reducing expenditure – we will eventually be able to achieve this goal (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/communities/9874213/TDC-axes-community-projects).
A large part of this years rates will also go towards debt repayment. With rising interest rates this is critical. Especially if council is to reduce its servicing costs of borrowing. Getting the cost of debt down will give council more room to make savings, which should feed through into reduced rates.
A lot of different numbers have been referred too when discussing debt, and this can be confusing. I hope to provide some clarity in a future post. To quickly summarise, the 2013-14 budget projected council debt to be around $193 million by June 2014. This is a best estimate of debt, based on planned debt funded expenditure as outlined in the 2013-14 annual plan. If debt funded expenditure is reduced (or new income streams are used during the year to pay off debt), then the actual reported debt figures will come in lower than the projected figures. In December 2013 (about half way through the financial year), the reported debt figure was around the $157 million mark. This was lower than expected. If the trend continues, projected debt will be lower than the expected $193 million.
Its also worth noting that our long term plan projects debt to be as high as $311 million by 2022. An amazing figure when you consider council debt in 2007 was only $77 million (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/features/weekend/9197579/Debt-danger-and-rates-risk).
Relevant documents and calculators
Council has provided a calculator where you can see what your rates will be for the next financial year. See http://www.tasman.govt.nz/property/rates/rate-record-search/.
A copy of the annual plan can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/draft-annual-plan-2014-2015-and-draft-rates-policies-submissions/.