Hamilton City Council has agreed to prepare a 10-year budget based on a compliance targeted rate of 4.5 per cent and a general rate increase of 4.4 per cent, which means an average annual rate rise of 8.9 per cent across the city.
For two days, city councillors mulled over 5690 submissions from the public – the most received on city proposals. These submissions provided feedback on the council's 11 specific topics, plus other city issues.
Following a three-day discussion, council instructed staff to prepare a budget based on investing $2.5 billion on capital projects plus $3.7 billion in operating costs. In addition, council resolved to invest:
• $55 million over 10 years to provide safe routes for walking, biking, scooting and skating around the city.
• $3 million to upgrade the Gordonton Rd-Puketaha Rd intersection starting in 2021-22.
• $21.6 million to upgrade the Borman Rd and Horsham Downs intersection as well as the Borman Rd East project in 2021-22 (including an $8 million subsidy from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency).
• $5 million to expand the Hillcrest library, beginning in 2027-28.
• a creative sector funding trial of $100,000 for three years.
• $11 million for a new walking and cycling bridge across the Waikato River.
• $500,000 to complete engagement, feasibility investigations and concept design for river infrastructure.
• $6 million to build a seasonal dome over the outdoor pool at Waterworld, ready for use from 2023.
• $29 million over 10 years to improve and restore the city's gullies.
A revised proposal to potentially introduce paid commuter parking on the city fringes will be considered before the end of this council term.
The council decided to hold off demolition and reinvestment in the Founders Theatre site on the West Town Belt. This was to give TOTI more time to provide a full and costed business case for an alternative use of the site.
That business case must be presented to the council before the end of the year so any cost implications can be considered before budgets are set next year.
Additions to the long-term plan budget agreed during the two days included:
• $50,000 for the Aranui Working Group to help with the Aranui Development Plan at Roose Commerce and Ferrybank.
• $120,000 for the construction of a fully accessible changing room and toilet within the Rototuna Village community hub.
• $500,000 as seed funding for a sports, recreation and community pavilion at Korikori Park.
• $160,000 for earthquake assessments and repairs to Beale Cottage (supported by reducing the Heritage Fund from $100,000 to $80,000 a year).
• $2.4 million to maintain council's level of service for road resealing and resurfacing.
• Removal of $2 million from the district plan review budget.
• Halving the council's graduate employment programme, reducing costs by $2.5 million over 10 years.
Mayor Paula Southgate said developing a long-term plan was an "arduous process" and thanked staff and elected members for their work. She also thanked those people who made submissions on the draft plan.
"Many of the changes made to our budgets and work programmes are a direct result of the feedback we received. So I thank people for that."
The plan was primarily about looking after core infrastructure for the city as well as responding directly to the priorities set by the people of Hamilton, she said.
The revised budget means the council will still balance its books by 2023-24. The debt-to-revenue ratio will peak at 275 per cent in 2025-26.
The council will formally set the rates at the council meeting on June 24, with the final long-term plan budget approved and in place from July 1.