Bangs for Bucks

Snells Beach gala dayI recently moved to live at Snells beach…and I’m loving the Mahurangi.  This meant looking at my own budget which led to the thought of what is really so different from balancing a household budget to balancing the Council budget.  Well, one significant difference is I can see what “bangs-for-bucks” I’m getting.  With the Council I can’t.

So let’s have a look at what needs to change so that we know what value we get for our rates.

The rate take from Rodney will increase from $64 million to $70 million this year due to population growth.   How much of this rate take will Rodney get back?  Councillors should vote to have the breakdown of how much rates are being spent in each of the 21 Local Board areas across Auckland and make that information publicly available.

Council’s transport projects for road sealing and pathways in Rodney will cost around $4 million this year. Council still prefers to borrow this money. Why? Because repaying that amount over 25 years is about $275,000 pa, whereas the new transport tax will be collecting from Rodney ratepayer’s an additional $3.79 million every year. So where is the remaining $3.52 million every year going? Certainly not into much needed local public transport!

So the second change needed is for Councillors to require Council’s treasury to publically account for where all of that extra transport tax is actually going.

Similarly, WaterCare will be investing $87 million over the next five years in Rodney. That’s an average of $17 million a year they will borrow to build new water systems. However, these borrowings are not serviced from our rates. They are repaid from the additional water rates we get charged. This will total $16.26 million in charges this year for Rodney.  Here’s the point, if the annual cost to service a $17 million loan is around $1.2 million where is the remaining $15.06 million of our water rates going? Down the drain?

So the third change that is required is for all Council Controlled Organizations (Auckland Transport, WaterCare, etc) to provide detailed reports of their monthly operational expenditure. They are currently not required to do this.  Hence, there is no way Councillors or ratepayers have any idea how these Council organisations are spending our money on their daily running costs.

Action these suggested governance changes along with the Council getting back to core business; returning to normal service standards; increasing productivity; reducing high compliance costs; reducing rather than increasing borrowings; using local contractors; supporting local volunteers; reining in the wage bill, and appointing an Independent Performance Auditor to report on Council’s performance – then we might truly know what bangs we are getting for our bucks.