The report recommending Shire of Augusta-Margaret River ratepayers be stung with a four per cent rates increase this year has revealed the Shire’s key financial document will have to be revised because it only recommends a two per cent jump. The four per cent sting would add $1.346 million to the council’s coffers despite the Shire report also confirming strong property growth which already netted an extra $362,000 before increases were applied. If the council decision is confirmed later this month, the overall Shire rates take would soar to $24.578 million – though thanks to Landgate’s valuations, it could’ve been worse. As reported last week, pressures stemming from the pandemic, challenges to service delivery, and rising inflation were all cited as reasons for the biggest proposed ratings increase in the past decade. While the Shire recognised “the community is impacted on a personal level by economic factors, including an erosion in real wages and a higher cost of living,” the local government’s Long-Term Financial Plan also stressed rates were the prime source of the needed extra income. However, the LTFP had proposed just a two per cent rates rise for 2022-23. “Economic conditions have changed significantly since the adoption of the LTFP (in March 2021), with price and cost escalation rates sitting considerably higher than forecast,” the report noted. “To ensure continued commitment to sound financial management, the two per cent rate increase included in the LTFP is no longer deemed viable.” The Shire would revise its LTFP to reflect the pending decision, due before councillors on June 22. The proposal, which is advertised for public comment until June 19, comes as Shire auditors warn the local government is undertaking risk in its ongoing failure to deliver a balanced budget without rollovers from unspent money and delayed infrastructure projects. The report also backed up last week’s Times report outlining property growth in Margaret River from new construction was leading the State, with Housing Minister John Carey revealing 394 local building applications in 2020-21 compared to 180 in the previous financial year. The council rates report detailed almost 1000 new rateable properties – mostly homes and units – were added to the shire in the past seven years, including 141 new properties coming online in 2021-22, making for an almost $23.6 million overall rates take before the proposed increase was applied. The seven-year trend represented growth of more than nine per cent. Yet despite that windfall, in recent years the Shire executive has warned ongoing cost pressures and aspirations to deliver a broad suite of projects outside of key local government areas – including social justice, support for housing, and additional work on the environment – could see some services rationalised. In the report, the Shire noted it was under increased stress to deliver projects in the face of population increases while the overall economy included rising interest rates and stagnant wage growth for households. That increase would vary between households, with the Shire required to consider increased valuations put forward by State Government agency Landgate.