Bega Valley councillors and council staff will be hitting the streets in coming months to gather what are bound to be heated reactions to plans for a significant rates rise from next financial year.
At Wednesday's council meeting, councillors discussed the long term financial plan that will be put on public exhibition for comment.
The plan includes four scenarios of special rate variations (SRV) councillors will need to choose between following community consultation, which will run through until January 16.
They unanimously agreed to "note" the plan along with the four options, rather than the call to "endorse" the plan with staff's preferred scenario.
The staff's recommendation was for a 90 per cent SRV to commence from financial year 2023/24 - the option staff said "provides for long-term sustainability and to maintain existing service levels".
Option B is for a 45 per cent SRV in the first year, and a 37.2 per cent SRV in the second year - which thanks to compounding effects would result in the same revenue for council over 10 years as would the 90 per cent rates rise.
Option C is for a 43 per cent SRV, which council staff acknowledged would see the council fall some $13.9million per year short of the revenue it knows it requires over the next 10 years.
Alternatively, councillors could choose to not request an SRV at all, relying solely on the noted rate peg of 4.1 per cent for the 2023-24 financial year.
The business papers note that this option puts council on "an unsustainable financial trajectory" and some $25.9million short of needed funds each year across 10 years.
The proposed increases are for the "general rates" element of ratepayers' bills, not the total amount, which includes separate sewer and water charges.
All councillors who spoke during Wednesday's robust discussion acknowledged there was a very tough decision ahead, but one that will only be taken after community consultation.
They spoke of canvassing the community's willingness - and indeed capacity - to pay additional rates for the many vital services council provided.
The alternative was highlighting what services might have to fall to the wayside should council's revenue not keep pace with needs.
Cr Tony Allen said this was "an unprecedented moment for this shire".
"But a decision has to be made, as unpalatable as it might be," he added.
"The challenge for the community is enormous, but it's a decision we have to make.
"We live in paradise, but paradise comes with a cost."
Cr Allen also acknowledged the "enormous pressure" faced by council staff "every time there's a pothole needing to be filled, or a public toilet that needs fixing".
Cr Mitchell Nadin said it came down to "choice".
"It's about the community having the choice to pay more to get more, or pay less and get less.
"For too long the Bega Valley Shire has had a champagne taste on a beer budget," he said of the community and its expectations of council services and assets.
"The 90 per cent model is for everything we have currently, maintained and operated, and renewed when the time comes.
"When we're making that choice it's really important that we're informed fully of exactly what it is we're paying for, who is paying it and how much are they paying.
"Councillors have made it clear there is no decision as to which option we will be going for - that is up to the community - and we will be listening intently."
MORE TO COME
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