The peak body representing NSW local councils has warned the NSW Government Emergency Service Levy (ESL) increase will be catastrophic for their budgets.
The ESL is a cost imposed on councils and the insurance industry to fund the emergency services budget in NSW.
LGNSW said that for some councils the unexpected cost hit would all but wipe out any IPART-approved rate rise, shredding budgets already under massive pressure from the combined impact of the pandemic, extreme weather events, high inflation and wage increases.
LGNSW President Darriea Turley said, “The newly-elected NSW Government has kicked off its first term in the worst possible way by sending NSW council budgets into meltdown, forcing them to shed jobs, close services and scrap infrastructure plans and could leave some councils insolvent.”
Shoalhaven City Council had just balanced its 2023/24 preliminary budget, figuring in $1.99 mill to cover the ESL cost.
It will be forced to pay a $3 mill Emergency Services Levy.
Shoalhaven Council Mayor Amanda Findley said, “This shock increase comes at a time when council budgets are still struggling with flood and bushfire disaster recovery and it will leave a big black hole in Council’s finances.”
Mayor Findley said, “It has blown my mind. It is a million dollars more than what Council had put into its preliminary budget, so what that means is what was a balanced budget has to find that million dollars to pay this bill.”
Clr Findley said “Council will now need to look at where budget savings can be made and that will likely mean important projects such as the Bomaderry Basketball Stadium upgrade and other infrastructure projects will need to be put on the back burner.
“What is the most despicable part of the whole situation is that the State Government will not let councils like Shoalhaven make this a separate amount on its rates and just let people know that this is the State Government Emergency Services Levy,” she said.
The LGNSW’s Cr Turley said the local government sector’s fight was not with emergency services workers but with a duplicitous and financially unsustainable funding system.
“I’m seeking urgent talks with Treasurer Daniel Mookhey where I will ask him to work with councils to develop a fairer funding system,” she said.