Polls to push cost up for ratepayers

By PETER CATON TWEED ratepayers face another huge bill which could lead to cuts in services. This time it is the cost of the next council election due in September 2008. The NSW Electoral Commission has warned councils across the state they face major increases in its charges for running the poll. Tweed's costs have doubled while some councils face bills four times higher than those for the last council elections in 2004. It is the third financial shock to hit Tweed Shire Council in the last month, coming on top of a million dollars in court costs from a battle with developer Gales Holdings and a three-million dollar blow-out in the cost of the Murwillumbah swimming pool and car park project. Yesterday the council administration officer Neil Baldwin said the electoral commission had estimated the bill for the 2008 Tweed shire election at $399,400. He said that was about double the cost of the 2004 poll "We can do without that sort of cost," he said. Mr Baldwin said although the cost would have to be met out of the 2008-2009 budget the council had immediately sought to squirrel some funds away to meet the increased bill. "We are looking internally if there is anything we can do in this 07-08 year," he said. " We are trying to put some money aside but it's pretty difficult given the stretching of the current budget." Both the Local Government and the Shires associations of NSW described the move to charge councils more for elections as 'brazen cost shifting' by the state government'. "This is a classic case of cost shifting from the state government and has been passed on to NSW communities without explanation or apology," said local government association president Genia McCaffery . "This government makes councils beg annually for rate increases equal to the CPI, just to maintain services and facilities for their residents - yet we have the State Government hitting councils with bills inflated by more than 300 per cent." President of the Shires Association Bruce Miller said many councils would not be able to afford the increase. "Twenty five per cent of councils in this state are already struggling financially," he said.



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