City of Bunbury Council opts for 5 per cent rate rise over 8.6 per cent hike

Headshot of Luke McPherson
Luke McPhersonSouth Western Times
Bunbury Mayor Jaysen Miguel.
Camera IconBunbury Mayor Jaysen Miguel. Credit: Luke McPherson

Property owners will see their rates rise by an average of $131 after the City of Bunbury Council voted in a 5 per cent increase.

Councillors rejected the executive recommendation of an 8.6 per cent average rates yield increase — equivalent to $191 on average per residential property — and instead opted for the more “palatable” 5 per cent increase, or $131, to reduce stress on residents.

During the impassioned debate at the meeting on Tuesday night, Cr Karen Turner pleaded with her fellow members to vote down 8.6 per cent, saying residents we struggling in the economic climate and were focused on paying the mortgage rather than funding new projects in the City.

But Cr Betty McCleary, who said she was “going down with the ship” and endorsed the 8.6 per cent rise, said people would find the money.

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Mayor Jaysen Miguel said he could not stomach the initially recommended 8.6 per cent, a sentiment shared by several other councillors.

“The CEO delivers the budget, but council instruct the CEO how to deliver that budget,” he said.

“After much debate our council’s made it clear that we think our community would not accept an 8.6 per cent increase.

“I wouldn’t be satisfied with that, so we are asking our CEO to go back and find ways where he can cut that expenditure.”

The 8.6 per cent rate hike was set to put the City in a $15,000 surplus for the 2022-23 budget, but staff will now be instructed to rework the budget with a 5 per cent rise.

Cr Miguel said a one per cent rise was equivalent to around $400,000, so a 3.6 per cent difference would equate to about $1.5 million.

Despite this, the Mayor said he did not expect the new budget to have a $1.5 million deficit and trusted staff to find ways to keep the the City in the black.

“This was the budget that was delivered to council seven weeks ago,” he said.

“What council has decided tonight is that we would like the staff to re-look at that.

“We are not now going to anticipate a $1.5 million deficit, it is about finding ways that we can reduce expenditure through that period.

“We recognise we need to be tight with our expenditure, that might mean we need to find certain areas where we need to find cutbacks or savings, and maybe certain things that may have to be drawn out for a while.”

The 5 per cent rise comes after Bunbury joined every other local government in WA in freezing rate rises in 2020-21 because of COVID, then adopted a modest 2.5 per cent rise this past financial year.

Mr Miguel said Bunbury’s rise was “slightly” higher than other local governments.

“In comparison to a lot of other local governments, this is probably around the ballpark figure, maybe slightly higher,” he said.

“(We) are trying to find that balancing act of making sure we are able to provide to the community what they want and still making sure it is affordable for the entire community.”

Crs Betty McCleary, Wendy Giles, Tresslyn Smith and Karen Steele voted in support of the original 8.6 per cent rise.

The 5 per cent motion was then passed eight votes to five, with Crs McCleary, Giles, Smith, Cheryl Kozisek and Kris Plumb voting against the motion.

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