STAYING SOLID: Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann at the site of the two Hine Road Bridges that will be replaced with a stone and concrete structure.
STAYING SOLID: Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann at the site of the two Hine Road Bridges that will be replaced with a stone and concrete structure. Contributed

Rates hike strikes in new Somerset budget

SOMERSET residents face a rate hike of 3.7% from July 1, following the release of the council's annual budget yesterday.

Handing the budget down, Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said the council was "acutely aware" of household budgets coming under increasing pressure.

"With this in mind, council has worked hard to contain its rate increase for farms, small businesses and residences to 3.7%," Cr Lehmann said.

In real terms, this represents an increase of $32.40 in the minimum rate payable for rural residential (Category 11) properties, and $26.30 in the minimum amount payable for urban residential properties (Category 13).

In a bold move, Cr Lehmann said council spending would exceed rate income by $3 million, in an attempt to stimulate the district's economy.

Despite this, Cr Lehmann said the council would remain debt-free in the financial year, using a combination of rates income, grants and cash reserves to fund expenditure.

As part of the infrastructure renewal program funded by the rates, Cr Lehmann said five new concrete bridges would be built.

"The reality is we can't keep load limiting timber bridges in the region. Load limits directly affect our producers and will ultimately affect their bottom line when productivity levels are impacted," Cr Lehmann said.

Smaller projects scheduled for the region include $20,000 on the installation of a shade structure and barbecue facilities at Pipeliner Park in Esk, $5000 on upgrades to the Lowood Cemetery, $5,000 to upgrade the war memorial at Colinton and spending $20,000 to build a safe school drop-off point at Tarampa.

While the rate rise for most residents was kept low, there are still some big charges, with any commercial land valued at more than $1million paying a minimum of $1,377.10 per year, up from $1,291.90 in the 2014-15 Budget.



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