An association claiming to represent the shire's ratepayers has threatened it will begin a campaign to have Bega Valley Shire Council dismissed and replaced with an administrator.
In a recent media release the Bega Valley Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) said it will make good on its promise if council does not reject its proposed special rates variation (SRV) to maintain and upgrade the shire's pools.
They have accused council of "double dipping" because an annual $1.382million that goes from council's general fund to pools will be redirected into other infrastructure if the SRV, which would become the sole funding source for pools, is approved.
BVSRRA president Fraser Buchanan said the SRV only needed to raise approximately an annual $650,000 to cover the gap between what the general fund provided and the approximate $2million it cost to run the pools.
He accused council of being dishonest because it had not clearly stated where the general funds currently spent on the pool would be going, saying if the SRV was approved the $1.382m would be a "windfall" for council.
In response, council's general manager Leanne Barnes said far from attempting to source more than one bucket of funds for pools "as some are alleging", council had proposed a dedicated new source based on the latest cost modelling.
"Currently $1.382million pa is allocated to the pools from the general fund, but that is not enough to meet the adopted six-pool goal in the long term, nor to fund expected renewals," she said.
She said without a secure, "ringfenced" funding source in place for pools, as with other services and infrastructure, they would be at risk of changes in priorities and reductions in budget allocations, which would mean pool closures or substantial reductions in services.
"Any increase in council's income realised through this potential SRV would in turn boost council's capacity to rebuild other essential infrastructure such as roads, bridges, footpaths and playgrounds when they reach the end of the respective useful life - a capacity that is under ever-increasing pressure," Ms Barnes said.
When asked about the legality of a "rates strike", which was also proposed by the BVSRRA if the SRV is passed, Ms Barnes said unpaid rates were a liability that sat with the title of a parcel of land.
"If a rates strike is undertaken, a corresponding debt, which currently accrues six per cent interest daily, will sit with the land," she said.
'Double dipping' claims
Currently, the pools cost an annual $2.03million to operate, with council using $1.382million each year from the general fund for that purpose.
The proposed SRV - equalling about a $2 increase per week for each ratepayer - would become the only source for the pools' funding needs.
The $1.382million from the general fund would be "redirected to other critical, core assets such as roads, bridges and buildings", according to Ms Barnes.
In its media release the BVSRRA said it believes council is trying to extract $1.382million "more than it needs to underwrite the shire's pools strategy".
Councillors will make a determination on the SRV at their meeting on November 20.