Originally appeared in Armidale Independent on .

By MATT NICHOLLS

RURAL ratepapers concerned about the 20 per cent rate rise have accused Armidale Dumaresq Council of balancing its books with ratepayers’ money.
Wollomombi graziers Trish and Allan McRae said ratepayers deserved better and should not suffer because of the council’s “mismanagement and lack of transparency”.
They encouraged all ratepayers to attend Saturday’s council workshop at the Armidale Town Hall, from 2pm to 4pm, after the time was changed late last week by council.
“The only reason for the rates to rise is because council has been poorly administrated and has overspent,” Mrs McRae said.
“The council is quoting $241 as the average increase for people living in town, but for us it will be in the thousands of dollars.”
Mrs McRae said farmers and property owners would be the most affected at a time when most were struggling to make an income due to the drought.
“We receive no services, except infrequent work on our gravel road, which is long overdue. We are price-takers, not price-makers,” she said.
“When things are tough we have to readjust our bottom line and council should do the same.”
The McRae’s property Fairburn has been in the family since the 1870s.
Mrs McRae said some landholders were forced to sell their top breeders because of the tough conditions and lack of water.
“This drought has been very savage and could continue through winter,” she said.
“Council has no right to balance their books out of our pockets.
“When our situation gets tough, we only spend what we need to spend.”
Mrs McRae said the council’s landfill saga and the potential termination of general manager Shane Burns should not come at a cost to ratepyaers.
“It would be good to see a lot of people at this meeting,” she said. “I know a lot of people aren’t happy about this.”
“We are very concerned that this is the first opportunity for rural ratepayers to state their objections – appararently a meeting was organised on Sunday 19 January, but was cancelled due to lack of interest when the council failed to advertise its existence.”