The meeting was a small victory for disgruntled ratepayers, and for council.
On one hand, the budget passed just as DCCC had intended. On the other, locals showed a united front and gave elected members plenty to think about before next year’s budget planning begins, not to mention the next local government elections.
This budget, on its surface, was no more controversial than usual. In fact, in some ways, it was more of a back-to-basics budget focusing more on roads and less on flashy projects than in previous years. The suggested rate increase of about five per cent was no larger than any of the past several years.
The difference is this time around people decided they weren’t going to take another increase in silence. And they certainly have not.
In the grand scheme of things, council rates make up less than five per cent of the taxes paid by the average person. Many households would lose more money through income tax every month than in council rates for an entire year.
But the work of councils is more tangible than higher levels of government. We see council work almost every day. We can deal directly with elected members and staff. We have some say in the budgeting process.
The negative reaction to council decisions and rate increases is real, but it also speaks to a larger problem. So many costs are going up and people need a break. There are not many ways people can easily take a stand against these increases, and try to take control of the ever-ballooning cost pressures.
If residents can ensure council rate rises are limited, and council funds are being used wisely, that’s a start. But there is a long way to go before it is truly easier to make ends meet.
Nick Perry, Editor