Mayor Andrew King says decisions made in coming weeks and months will define the future of the city.
In a matter of weeks Hamilton City Council considers the draft 10-Year Plan budget for the city and faces a number of key decisions.
Population and economic growth in Hamilton has been strong and most indicators of spending and investment have also continued to expand. Mayor King says this brings challenges the city must sort out through the 10-Year-Plan process.
“Investment in Hamilton is bringing great opportunities but it means we need to review our financial strategy. Our base operating costs are underfunded by millions of dollars every year. We have to address this,” says Mayor King.
“We already know Hamilton’s rates are significantly lower than those of other growth councils in New Zealand, and lower than our neighbouring Waikato councils.”
Mayor King says Hamilton’s financial strategy was right at the time, but the city is in a different economic environment.
“Our previous financial strategy was set during the global financial crisis, a time of low growth. Accelerated growth means we need to be aware of what’s changed in the past six years, and what new opportunities we have.
“The Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is an interest-free loan that could save us millions of dollars and I believe it’s one way, probably the only way, we can open up the areas we need for growth without a large impact on existing ratepayers.
“Managing growth is not just about building more houses and new infrastructure. It’s about understanding how growth affects the facilities and services we already have. If we don’t spend wisely on growth now it’s going to cost us more later.”
Mayor King says the draft budget is being built on three concepts: growth paying for growth, everyday costs of maintaining the city being met from everyday revenue, and options for funding for new projects.
“Targeted rates for transport improvements and new community facilities are among the options we are looking at. This would mean that money is ring-fenced for those projects and the community can clearly see the priorities and where the money is going,” Mayor King says.
“This process is about looking at every option to make the right choices for our city. We’re doing a lot of work to prepare a thorough draft budget for councillors to discuss. There’s no doubt the council and our community have some big decisions to make in the next few months.”
The draft budget will be considered by the council on 19 October, and will be the result of thousands of hours of work to review council’s assets, services, facilities and financial structures.
Further council budget meetings, community consultation and hearings will be held before the 10-Year Plan is finalised next year.