Hamilton Mayor Andrew King says the initial 10-Year Plan budget answers the challenges facing the city and secures a better Hamilton for its people.
The budget will be debated by the Council next week but Mayor King says the key elements should come as no surprise.
“In March I asked the Council to consider a further rates rise so we didn’t continue to use debt for everyday costs. Councillors wanted more information and over the past few months we have examined every aspect of our finances. In that time the financial gap has got wider,” Mayor King says.
“Borrowing to pay for everyday costs is unsustainable. Over the past six years Hamilton has borrowed more than $60 million to meet this funding gap. The interest alone on that is costing ratepayers more than $3 million in interest every year.
“Borrowing for long-term assets that benefit our city now and in the future is sensible. Things like roads, reservoirs, bridges, sports parks or community facilities. Borrowing to pay for running costs doesn’t just cost us more, it reduces our ability to fund the assets we need.
“If we keep doing what we’re doing, eventually we will run out of money. It’s that simple,” Mayor King says.
“As city leaders we shouldn’t leave the tough decisions to a future Council or future ratepayers, when the cost and debt will be even more.
“I am proposing a bold budget, a responsible budget, and a budget which invests more than ever in our city.
“A rates rise of 15.5% means we can stop borrowing for the wrong things. It means we can properly plan for growth and take advantage of Government funding for new infrastructure that will save our ratepayers $70 million. Over the next 10 years it means we can invest a further $220 million in safer and better roads, and $80 million in our community facilities.
“This budget invests in looking after what we have now, putting money into maintaining our assets and improving the services we deliver to the city,” Mayor King says.
“Rates rises are not popular. I know this is a further expense for our city’s families and businesses. We have rates remissions and rates rebates schemes for lower income families and I have asked the Chief Executive to look at how we communicate this to the people who need it most.
“This is a starting point for this Council. Next week Councillors will debate this budget and develop the draft plan. I have asked them to be prepared to make hard decisions for the future of our city.”
The initial draft 10-Year Plan and summary information is available on the Council’s website at www.hamilton.govt.nz/10yearplan.