Sign campaign targets spending

Concerned Citizens have erected their latest Hamilton billboard critical of City Hall.

Spokesperson Ray Stark says council's continual reporting a favourable financial position would make an entertaining claim for a Tui billboard.

The new billboard says: "Your rates are too high because council's spending too much. There's hope, it's election year."

Concern Citizens reckon inflation was 0.9 per cent in the 12 months to March 31, 2013, according to the Reserve Bank. Yet the Hamilton City Council was proposing a 3.8 per cent increase in rates from July 1, 2013.

Mr Stark asks how are Hamilton ratepayers going to be able to pay their increased rates demand if their pay is languishing around the rate of inflation?

"How are Hamilton residents going to be able to pay their house rental if their landlord or landlady put up the rent by 3.8 per cent to recover council costs?"

He says the council's finance and monitoring committee met on May 10 and reviewed figures to March 31. "The news was bad.

"Total external debt stood at $413.9 million. That's the amount of money that the council would have to pay to clear its debt in full. Even worse, the figure was forecast to reach $447.0 million on June 30, 2013

Council's total operating revenue for 2012-13 (on page 12 of the 2012-22 long-term plan) was forecast to be $192.6 million. The council's debt is already double the size of its annual revenue and still growing.

"A rather more revealing figure was the council's forecast rates revenue for 2012-13. It was $128.6 million. It's one-third of the city's present debt of $413.9 million.

"In other words, if the council was to simply stop all its spending, lock the doors and Hamilton ratepayers kept paying their rates demands, it would still take more than three years to pay off the principal on the council's debt. Then we would have to pay all the interest accruing to the council over the next three years. As the council's interest bill fluctuates around $500,000 a week, we would still be paying off the council's financial commitments at the time of the 2016 local-body elections, even if the council shut up shop today."

Mr Stark says actually, the news is even worse.

"If the council were to go out of business today, all ratepayers would be sent a bill to cover their share of the outstanding debt. Imagine getting a bill for 12 times your present three monthly rates demand. Very few Hamilton people could afford this sudden and unwanted bill."

The council is spending too much. But it's planning to spend even more.

"For the 2012-13 financial year, the council's total operating expenditure is forecast to be $195.1 million. By 2015-16, it's predicted to rise to $209.3 million. By 2018-19, it's forecast to hit $229.2 million. By 2021-22, the final year of the present long-term plan, it's predicted to surge beyond the quarter of a billion mark, reaching a staggering $252.8 million.

"That's a 30 per cent rise in only nine years. Clearly, council spending is not under control."

- Hamilton News

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