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20180305 Hamilton Ratepayers Struggling


Struggling Hamilton residents shocked by rates rises

Retired teacher Sheik Basha, 74, is unhappy with rates rises in Hamilton City Council's 10-year plan.

A shockwave of jacked up rates' bills is breaking over city residents.

Hamilton City Council's 2018 to 2028 10-year plan was put out to public consultation in April and letters sent to each home in the city have started to arrive.

The plan proposes a 9.5 per cent average rates increase in the first two years of the plan and a 3.8 per cent increase in the third year as the preferred of six options.

For some residents, that means a meagre rates rise or even a decrease.

READ MORE: Confused? So are your city councillors

According to council's online rates calculator, a Resthills home currently paying $2743 per year would see an increase of $88 in the first year or an extra $1.60 per week.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King is confident the 10-year plan's financial strategy will get the city's books back in order.

A Maeroa home would see a rates drop in the first year by $302 from $2332 to $2030 - a saving of $5.80 per week.

That's not the case for retired Huntington resident Sheik Basha​, 74, who is currently paying $2984 in rates per year.

He's facing a $564 increase in the first year; $337 in the second year and; $147 in the third year.

All up, that's $1048 more at the end of the third year than what he's currently paying - money he'd much prefer to spend on doctors and prescriptions.

"We are retired people, just two of us here. My wife is also retired and we have a lot of costs for medical," Basha said. "We are struggling and this one has really shocked me."

Basha has been living at his three bedroom home since 2009 and is on a fixed income and questions what value, if any, he gets for the increased cost of living.

"It's huge you know? We hardly put any rubbish out, just a small plastic bag we put by the roadside and there is no decent park here in this area at all."

Owners of a Regent Street home at Silverdale, with a current rates bill of $2698, will have to increase payments to meet a $3638 bill in the first year, increasing to $3983 in the second year and $4134 in the third year.

A mansion on Kotahi Avenue, labelled Hamilton's priciest street in October, will have its rates increase by more than $5000 in the first year from $10,185 to $15,271 and rising to $17,357 in the third year.

But that pales against the Pembroke Street home of Sir William Gallagher and Judi Lady Gallagher which has a current rates bill of $37,289.41 but will rise to $64,440 in the first year; $70,562 in the second year and a whopping $73,243 in the third year.

Hamilton Resident's and Ratepayers Association Inc. president Mischele Rhodes said the 9.5 per cent proposed rates hike is excessive and shows a council out of touch with the community.

"Everyone is really concerned. Most of membership is retired people on fixed incomes and they don't know how they are going to find the money to pay the rates," Rhodes said. "This is forcing people into selling their homes."

She suggests council cut backs on "nice-to-haves" starting with Claudelands Event Centre and the FMG Stadium Waikato.

And cut back on planned expenditure for the regional theatre and Garden Place, she said.

"It's like we are a bottomless pit. No one has really received a wage increase and basically they have got to work within a budget and the debt is pulling us down."

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said the council is running a tight ship but can't afford to sell all of it's assets - the city needs to be one people want to live in.

The proposed plan, with a new reporting measure, will succeed in getting the books back in order and maintaining city parks, assets and services," he said.

"Over the last 6 years we've gone into debt by about $48m but we haven't been able to see that because the way we have been reporting it has included development levy fees," King said. 

Development levies have been included as income when they should not have been and have masked the reality of council's finances.

​As a result, council has been borrowing, on average, $10m per year for the past 5 years to pay for everyday expenses like rubbish collection and road repairs.

"It's like using your credit card to pay your mortgage," King said. "Eventually you are going to run out of credit on your credit card and your interest payments are going to continue to escalate."

The 2018-2028 10-year plan is now in the public consultation phase from March, 29, to April, 30, 2018.