Levy not the best option

May 15, 2018

It would be ‘‘stupid’’ for Edward River Council to walk away from the Deniliquin Promotions Fund, however a levy on businesses to raise revenue for the fund may not be the answer, according to Mayor Norm Brennan.

While not discounting a business levy could be implemented again in the future, Cr Brennan said ‘‘in my opinion it’s clear from community feedback it’s not the most appropriate method of raising money to promote the area as a great place to visit, live or invest’’.

He said he had already approached Murray Regional Tourism to investigate other ways of raising capital to continue the Promotions Fund activities, which he acknowledged have undoubtedly been successful in their aims.

‘‘I know there has been a lot of angst about only businesses being levied, and there was a thought it should apply more broadly (across the council area),’’ Cr Brennan said.

‘‘I have had discussions with the likes of Murray Regional Tourism and we need to find out what other options are out there to continue this type of funding, and to leverage funding from elsewhere.

‘‘We have no preference (in the way the funds are collected) other than trying to find a more equitable way of funding it across the board.

‘‘Nothing is off the table at this stage. The only favoured option is that it would be stupid to walk away from the promotions activities because it has been too effective.

‘‘But obviously this will be a decision for the full council to make in the future.’’

Despite opposition from sections of the business community, a three year trial of the levy was approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and therefore adopted by the former Deniliquin Council in 2015-16.

The levy was collected from owners of business rated land in the Deniliquin Council area, and started with an annual charge of $195 on top of normal rates and charges.

The levy increased in line with CPI each financial year, which meant about $80,000 was raised for the Deniliquin Promotions Fund each year.

The trial ends on June 30 this year.

Council could apply for another business levy, but not until at least 2020/2021, due to a rating structure freeze which is in place for another two financial years due to the merger of Deniliquin and Conargo Shire councils in 2016.

Edward River Council has instead opted to contribute $50,000 from its own reserves in 2018/19 to ensure the Promotions Fund activities can continue in the interim.

Cr Brennan said it will be one of the options considered when reviewing the future of the Promotions Fund, with another being ongoing contributions from council’s consolidated revenue.

‘‘If we were to do that (contribute funding) it might mean a reduction in services elsewhere. We would need to look at our priorities.

‘‘If council believes it is something we need to do, then let’s look at the options.’’

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