Matt Cowley: Will Council look to businesses to fund the $2b deficit? - Tauranga Chamber of Commerce

Matt Cowley: Will Council look to businesses to fund the $2b deficit?

Tauranga City Council staff recently told the Bay of Plenty Times that their $2b funding hole is the ‘biggest challenge we’ve had’.  

During last year’s Annual Plan, only one Tauranga City Council elected member voted against changing the rating tools that resulted in more commercial properties paying more in rates.  

It appears the political currents are drifting towards commercial property owners contributing more rates in future years. The main question is now how much will rates increase by, and how will it be invested by the Council? 

I recently ran a panel discussion about the key findings of a survey of Chamber members, ran by Key Research. 

Upon questioning, the panel said their willingness to pay more in rates was a question of value: They wanted to know the Council’s plan and have trust that the plan would be delivered.  

Many other businesses are telling me that local traffic is becoming a barrier to their operations – the business is not earning money if their vans and vehicles are stuck in traffic.  

However, there is strong resistance to increasing rates on businesses if that money goes into the Council’s general funding bucket.  

In 2014, the Council received very little community resistance to putting in a stormwater levy as rivers were running through homes and businesses during storms 

I feel like a targeted rate or a levy on commercial properties would help accelerate transport investment. It would also improve Council’s debt to revenue ratio, which means it could borrow more to advance more infrastructure investment.  

Whether another mayor is elected next year, or the Government appoints Commissioners to replace all elected members, it is very likely that commercial properties will pay more in either scenario.  

The Council needs to address their biggest issue, which is their $2b funding deficit. Rates will be going up whether a Commissioner or a democratically elected council is still at the decision-making table.  

Let’s rally behind an option that ensures business funding is targeted towards delivering infrastructure that benefits the local economy and keeps Tauranga moving forward.  

In the future, I will outline what the region’s SmartGrowth 30-year Plan and the Transport System Plan will mean for the local business community, as this is what you’ll be buying with your rates. 

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