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Council sets plans and budgets

Council sets plans and budgets

The proposed average rates increase for North Shore City ratepayers for 2003/04 is 4.65 per cent, down from just over five per cent proposed in the Draft 2003/04 Annual Plan. North Shore City ' s water price of $1.29 per one thousand litres remains the same.

Mayor George Wood says the council agreed, at a special meeting last Friday, on a more achievable new capital works programme for the next financial year (starting July 1). This seeks to maintain and progress work in key priority areas to improve transportation, wastewater and stormwater networks, and the purchase of new parks and reserves.

" Our $76.7m new capital budget (down from $81.2m in the draft plan) for next year is sensible and balanced, and allows for more realistic time frames so that we can plan, integrate and complete projects in set times, " Mr Wood says.

The planned new projects are $10.6 m up on the $66.1m we expect to complete by the end of this financial year.

Councillor Andrew Eaglen, chairperson of this year ' s annual plan hearings committee, says it can take a significant amount of time to complete major capital projects.

" This is particularly the case when buying land or undertaking construction work. A number of steps are involved including community consultation, acquiring land, negotiating with the owners and undertaking design work.

" Then there is applying for and obtaining resource consents, ensuring the availability of staff and contractors to undertake the work, not to mention getting funding from other parties, " Councillor Eaglen says.

Most of the major works projects that have been deferred are in the transportation area. These include the widening of Esmonde Rd, Lake Rd and Glenfield Rd. The North Shore Busway and other public transport projects have also been rephased and in some cases brought forward to fit in with other agencies including Transfund to ensure an integrated approach to public transport for the Auckland region.

Mayor George Wood says changes have been necessary to the draft plan to incorporate feedback from the public, to areas of the new capital works programme where it could not be guaranteed that work could be completed in the next financial year, and to accommodate increased costs to comply with government legislation. The total cost of complying with the Local Government Act 2002 amounts to around $600,000 for 2003/04.

" Our transportation budget is our biggest ticket item with $32m to be invested in new capital projects including the busway, and a further $37.2m required to operate and maintain our transport network helping to improve public transport and ease traffic congestion which remains a key challenge for our city and the Auckland region.

" Other big ticket areas clearly supported by the community are wastewater (sewerage) with a further $24m to be invested in new capital works, stormwater a further $7m and $3m to secure more parkland, " Mr Wood says.

Other key points from the annual plan deliberations are:

* Birkenhead Library changed from a $1.95m upgrade to $5.5m for a new library with $100,000 for design and planning in 2003/04 and a further $0.9m in 2004/05 and $4.5m in 2005/06 for construction;

* Increased resources for Travelwise including the appointment of a Travelwise co-ordinator to promote the programme in schools;

* Extra costs of compliance with Local Government Act 2002 of $600,000;

* Stormwater infrastructure planning costs of $585,000; and

* Increase in the community facilities grants fund of $200,000 (bringing this to $700,000) and community grants of $50,000.

The anticipated overall debt level (including guarantees) by June 30, 2004, is now $84.9m, down from the $100.3m projected in the draft plan. Interest to be paid is now planned at $3.5m, which is $1m lower than the draft plan. Both of these are well within the council ' s own self-imposed constraints.

Earlier this year, the council received 309 written submissions on the plan, with 113 people heard by its hearings committee.

Councillor Eaglen thanked everyone who took the time to attend meetings and make submissions on the draft Annual Plan.

The 2003/04 Annual Plan is due to be adopted by councillors on July 1.

The first North Shore City rates notice will be sent out in mid-July. The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rate has been dropped from the North Shore City rates bill and ratepayers will receive a separate invoice from ARC.

* 2003/04 covers the period from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004.

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