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Community Asked To Have Their Say As Lower Hutt Rates Rise Cut By Half

Hutt City Council is proposing to reduce its operating budget by $3 million and reduce a proposed rates rise by half as part of its draft emergency budget and Annual Plan approved for consultation today.

The draft emergency budget and 2020/2021 Draft Annual Plan were developed in response to the economic challenges arising from Covid-19, and the need to exercise restraint to support Lower Hutt through an uncertain and challenging period.

Residents will be asked for their views on the proposal over two weeks from tomorrow (Friday 8 May) that includes an overall rates rise of 3.8 per cent for ratepayers. This equates to a rates increase of $2.35 per week per household based on an average residential property value of $627,000.

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says Council’s priority has been to ease the financial burden facing people across the city while at the same time putting in place a response plan which includes financial and welfare support to businesses and residents.

"We know the Covid-19 pandemic has hit our people and businesses particularly hard. This has required us to urgently re-evaluate our plans for the coming year, and look at actions we can take to provide some relief," Campbell Barry says.

"The proposed Draft Annual Plan aims to strike a balance of reducing planned rates increases, while also including funding to progress key projects, and avoiding significant service reductions."

"While we need to exercise restraint, we also need to invest in key projects like the renewal of our water infrastructure, and seismic strengthening of our facilities. These investments are important for the economic recovery - and will sustain local jobs and support local supply chains."

"Council has unanimously agreed to consult on this proposal. We now want to hear what people across our community think, and I encourage them to share their views during the engagement process which begins tomorrow."

Hutt City Council Chief Executive Jo Miller says the focus now is on continuing with Council’s ambitions on projects that will enable recovery.

"Over the last six weeks we have responded to the lockdown and impacts of Covid-19 that are being felt in our community. The one-year emergency budget will see services and key projects continuing while refocusing resources to help our community now and during recovery.

"Included in this budget are operational savings of $3 million and we will undertake a new process at the start of the next financial year in July to reconfigure services and revisit the budget with a view to creating greater efficiencies which will lead to further savings over time.

"Considering the very short timeframes we’ve had to respond to this ever-changing situation I think where we have got to is sound and we now need to hear from the community on our proposals."

The emergency one-year budget has been developed on the basis of prioritising investment in Three Waters infrastructure. The average rates increase per household of $2.35 per week or $122 per annum largely relates to this priority area. Investment in Three Waters infrastructure makes up $84 of the average $122 per annum rise and the remaining $38 covers cost increases for all the other services provided by Council.

Projects included in the emergency budget are

Water infrastructure work - $12.1M

RiverLink - $5.4M

Naenae Pool preparatory work - $1.5M

Facilities seismic strengthening - $1.25M

Homelessness strategy - $520k

Climate change community engagement - $200k

Savings

Staff costs reduced by $1.2M

Accommodation costs reduced by $263k

Community engagement reduced by $250k

Regional Amenities Fund removed - $200k

Minor work on Roads reduced by $200k

Parks operational costs reduced by $100k and Pools by $100k

Community funding reduced by $100k

Library costs reduced by $100k

Biodiversity Assistance for Landowners reduced by $65k

Suburban Shopping Centre Fund reduced by $50k

Museums funding reduced by $50k

International Co-operating Cities funding reduced by $40k

Background information

Visit haveyoursay.huttcity.govt.nz/annualplan20-21 which is the online engagement site and will be live from 8am Friday 8 May.

Visit www.huttcity.govt.nz/covid19 for more information on Hutt City Council’s response plan.

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