Topics:  daily news, rates, tweed, tweed shire council election 2012

Q: How will you keep rates low?

THE Tweed is coming out of a seven-year plan that increased rates to build infrastructure and now it's time for a breather, according to candidates vying for council election.

The Daily News spoke to the 12 ticket leads about their plans for keeping rates down and the biggest budget challenges they foresee.

Rate discounts the longer you live here, a review of pensioner rebates and avoiding building dams are just some of the suggestions.

Tweed Respect lead candidate Eddie Roberts supported a push to have rates reduced for older residents depending on how long they have lived in the area.

"We would like to see something like that for the elderly," Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said the council should also look at opportunities for income outside of rates such as carbon farming.

Jayne Henry said any action would require a fine "balance".

"I haven't yet seen the figures," Ms Henry said.

"The biggest challenge will be creating that balance, but there will always be unknown variables."

Mayor Barry Longland and Cr Warren Polglase both said the seven-year plan rate rises were restrictive and it was time for a break. "It will be a challenge in the next budget," Cr Longland said.

"This council has stuck to the plan, but it is now time to hit the pause button on rates."

Cr Polglase said the limited growth was restricting contributions coming in through Section 94.

"In no way I'd be supporting an increase above what the State Government allows," Cr Polglase said.

"If adjustments need to be made to maintain our assets at an acceptable level, then that's just a hard decision we'd have to make"

Cr Dot Holdom said rebates should be reviewed.

"The rate rebate available to all pensioners is a matter that council can take up with the State Government, as has been done," Cr Holdom said.

Michael Armstrong said that Tweed Labor wanted to make sure the balance was right.

"Council needs to deliver essential and needed services and rates need to be affordable," Mr Armstrong said. "Tweed Labor will strive for this balance and will always put the needs of locals first."

Cr Phil Youngblutt said rates would have to remain the lowest possible in the next budget: "We have to do what businesses are doing and that's cutting spending. I don't think people realise what the impact of the carbon tax will be."

Gary Bagnall said a councillor had to ensure that the council delivered "the biggest bang for its buck".

"Ratepayers have had three tough years bearing the cost of forced rate increases to bring the Tweed shire up to speed with its budget," Mr Bagnall said.

Cr Katie Milne said she would keep rates as low as possible by forming a community networking group to reassess the council's financial plans and priorities.

"I would like to investigate the extent to which the community and businesses are subsidising infrastructure for new developments," Cr Milne said.

"Council needs to tone down on extravagant projects ... and avoid building dams if we possibly can.

"My biggest fear for the rates is council's $300 million shortfall in the future road network arising from new developments and not one councillor supporting my call for a report into this."

Bruce Campbell reserved his opinion until he could get more financial information from the council.

Kaye Sharples and Carolyn Byrne declined to comment.



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