It's time to talk water, sewer and stormwater prices

It's time to talk water, sewer and stormwater prices

It's time to talk water, sewer and stormwater prices

Did you know your water, sewer and stormwater prices are set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, also known as IPART?

On 10 September 2021 Council submitted a draft pricing proposal to IPART for its water, sewerage and stormwater drainage prices from 1 July 2022.

IPART has indicated that it will publish Council’s proposal and an Issues Paper by 28 September.  

Click here to sign up to be notified when the pricing proposal is on public exhibition. 

Central Coast Council Media Release - 7 September 2021

Council endorses the process for IPART water, sewerage and stormwater pricing proposal

Central Coast Council has endorsed the process for the preparation of the draft pricing proposal to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for its water, sewerage and stormwater drainage prices from 1 July 2022.
 
IPART sets the maximum prices for Council’s water, sewerage and stormwater drainage services. Council’s pricing proposal has been developed and is now ready to submit to IPART for their review.
 
Administrator Rik Hart said that Council’s current water, sewer and stormwater rates, which were significantly reduced by IPART in its 2019 determination, are not financially sustainable.
 
“I want to be upfront with the community about our pricing proposal. As it stands, the current pricing levels will see ratepayers having to subsidise the operations of the water, sewer and stormwater drainage businesses. But even worse, there will be insufficient funds to invest in maintenance and upgrades to ensure the community can be provided with a safe, clean and reliable water supply as well as an effective sewer and drainage system that does not harm the environment,” Mr Hart said.
 
“We are proposing to IPART that we increase our revenue for our water, sewer and stormwater services. We’re suggesting we return our prices for these services similar to 2018-19 levels, with an allowance for subsequent inflation.
 
“By doing this, we can be prudent and efficient with our expenditure, and still deliver the needs that the community outlined during the consultation program we ran earlier this year.
 
“IPART will fully test our proposal and may make changes to what we have submitted.”
 
Mr Hart added that Council is continuing to move forward in its financial recovery and also driving productivity gains.
 
“Over the relatively short period of the last six months, Council has significantly reduced its expenditure across the entire organisation in both materials and contracts and staffing numbers and their associated costs. There has been close to a 25% reduction in Council’s gross weekly payroll due to the significant restructure of the organisation and particularly the reduction in the management staffing levels by around 35%.
 
“This has not resulted in the 25% reduction of services delivered to the community.
 
“This is a straight productivity gain and the community are the ones who benefit from this,” Mr Hart said.

Below is an outline of the timeline to follow for Council’s pricing proposal:

  • September 2021: Council submits their pricing proposal.
  • September/October 2021: IPART will review the pricing proposal and make it public on their website. They will undertake a public consultation process, giving the community an opportunity to provide feedback – which is encouraged by Council.
  • October/November 2021: IPART will hold a public hearing with locations and times advertised in local newspapers, on IPART’s website and via Council’s communication channels.
  • March/April 2022: IPART will release a draft report and determination detailing proposed prices. The community has a further opportunity to respond to the draft reports by making submissions to IPART.
  • May 2022: Following consideration of submissions, IPART will release their final report and determination on prices that will come into effect on 1 July 2022.

Council will inform the community once the pricing proposal is made public on IPART’s website in the coming weeks.

Click here to sign up to be notified when the pricing proposal is on public exhibition. 

Council are required to prepare and lodge this submission on water, sewer and stormwater prices due to timing previously set by IPART – it has not been brought forward in line with Council's application to IPART for a Special Variation on rates.

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Community consultation results

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Sep 2021: Council endorses the process for IPART water. sewerage and stormwater pricing proposal
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How have you consulted with the community for the pricing proposal?

Between 1 March and 28 March 2021 Council sought community feedback on what’s important to them about how we provide water, sewer and stormwater drainage services. We did this through four distinct methods:

  • Residential – structured: A structured (representative of the Central Coast community) survey amongst 510 residents aged 18+
  • Residential – Council YVOC: An opt-in online (non-representative) survey open to residents through Your Voice Our Coast website, which resulted in 620 responses
  • SME: A phone survey of 120 small to medium (SME) sized business decision makers
  • Group discussions: Two qualitative group discussions amongst residents aged 18+ conducted online via Zoom

The results of the consultation have been placed into two reports - one which summarises the results, and one which shows the results in complete detail.

How long will the prices be in place for?

Council’s proposal is that prices be set for four years (1 July 2022 – 30 June 2026) but the final decision will be made by IPART.

Why is a new IPART water pricing submission being made just two years after the last one in 2019? Is this the normal frequency and if not why the sudden change in frequency? 

In 2018, IPART set Council’s prices for water, sewerage, and stormwater services for a three-year period, from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022, following a pricing submission made by Council. Typically, a pricing determination goes for four years, however IPART set it for a three-year period due to the newly merged Council. 

Council’s next pricing submission is due for lodgement with IPART in September 2021 and will determine Council’s prices for those services from 1 July 2022 until 30 June 2026. 

For Council to prepare its current pricing proposal to IPART, a rigorous process is undertaken where business cases for expenditure need to be completed as well as asset management plans and community consultation. 

Once the pricing submission is sent to IPART (September 2021) it will be another 9 months before price changes are implemented, which brings us to 1 July 2022. 

The fact that Council are preparing the proposal now is due to the timing set by IPART. It has not been brought forward in line with the Special Variation application submitted to IPART by Council as part of its Business Recovery Plan.

The previous IPART ruling reduced our water and sewer prices. Will it be recommended as part of our 2022-2026 IPART submission that these prices be lowered, stay the same or raised? 

Council, as a water supply authority, does not set the prices for water, sewer or stormwater. As part of the IPART submission, we request a certain amount of money for expenditure on asset maintenance, asset renewals and building new infrastructure. This is to address our ageing infrastructure as well as maintaining our legislated environmental standards for treatment of both water and sewerage. 

It is up to IPART to review our requested expenditure to determine whether the prices are lowered, stay the same or raised. A balance is made to ensure our assets provide the services expected by our community while maintaining fair and reasonable pricing. 

In our previous submission to IPART in 2018, IPART reduced our expenditure allowance which resulted in the prices for water, sewage and stormwater being lower– the less expenditure, the less that can be charged for water, sewage and stormwater prices and vice versa. 

Council will be submitting their pricing proposal to IPART in September 2021. After this, IPART will place our pricing proposal on public exhibition, and undertake a community consultation process, giving the opportunity to provide feedback – which is encouraged by Council. Click here to sign up to be notified when the pricing proposal is on public exhibition. 

How is this submission to IPART different from the Special Variation application to IPART?

Council has resolved to consider applying to IPART for a rate rise to help with Council’s financial recovery. This process is called a Special Variation (SV) application and is a one-off application.

As for the submission to IPART for our water, stormwater and sewage prices, this is done on a regular basis in accordance with legislated requirements, and Council’s next pricing submission is due for lodgement with IPART in September 2021. 

The fact that Council are preparing the proposal now is due to the timing set by IPART. It has not been brought forward in line with the Special Variation.

When will my bill change?

You will see the result of IPART’s final determination on your first bill after 1 July 2022.

My property is located in the non-declared drainage area of the Central Coast. Will I be charged for drainage?

We are proposing that charges relating to properties currently located in a non-declared drainage area remain the same during the next 4-year IPART determination commencing on 1 July 2022. This means your property will continue to be charged water and sewer rates, and will not be levied the stormwater drainage charge.

Frequently asked questions

How can I have my say?

Council will be submitting their pricing proposal to IPART in September 2021. After this, IPART will place our pricing proposal on public exhibition, and undertake a community consultation process, giving the opportunity to provide feedback – which is encouraged by Council.

Click here to sign up to be notified when the pricing proposal is on public exhibition. 

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