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HomeIssue 8Ratepayer, do you want your money back?

Ratepayer, do you want your money back?

p2362-council-ryan-copyBy KIERAN FINNANE
Ratepayers will be asked, by means yet undecided, whether they want to be reimbursed for the money collected to make the 2017-18 payments on the Civic Centre loan: a total of $528,000 for the principal and interest.
Right: Cr Melky and Mayor Ryan, photo from our archive.
This money is now unallocated in the Town Council budget because the loan was paid off in its entirety by the previous council, drawing on its capital infrastructure reserve and delivering a saving of $100,000+.  (This followed persistent lobbying from Councillor Eli Melky.)
The alternative to reimbursement will be to leave it up to councillors to decide how to spend the presently unallocated funds.
When Cr Melky put this to the Finance Committee a fortnight ago he could not even get a seconder for the motion. He was unfazed: a lot can happen in two weeks, he said.
It obviously did and the result suggests a shift in the balance of power on council.
First of all, a seconder raised his hand – Cr Glen Auricht.
Cr Melky then  expounded on the reasons for the motion: in brief, for him it came down to “a question of right and wrong”; the money was collected “by default”, circumstances have changed; now it’s time to say to “the persons we took it from we don’t need it any more”.
Mayor Damien Ryan asked if anyone wanted to speak against the motion. Nobody did. It was put to the vote and, one by one, five hands went up: supporting Crs Melky and Auricht were Crs Marli Banks, Jimmy Cocking and Catherine Satour.
I think it would be fair to describe the Mayor and CEO Rex Mooney as stunned.
The Mayor called for a division, which means that the names of those opposing the motion will be noted in the meeting minutes: apart from him, they were Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni and Crs Jacinta Price and Matt Paterson.
Mayor Ryan then asked Mr Mooney for his advice on how the public should be consulted. Mr Mooney, still absorbing the implications of the vote, suggested that council needed to discuss it further, but Mayor Ryan pointed out to him that council had just made a formal decision: to go to the public.
Mr Mooney said council would need to put some form of guidance to the public, a list of suggestions and that this should be discussed at the November forum (a meeting of councillors and directors behind closed doors).
However, this is not what the successful motion says. It simply says council has to ask the ratepayers whether they want the money credited back to them or are they happy to have councillors decide how to spend or manage the funds.
The next step is how to consult, not what to consult about.
p2499 ASTC councillors 430A relatively minor matter in last night’s meeting also suggests a shift in dynamics on the new council. Mayor Ryan had last month revealed that his election campaign cost $4208.40, which he had paid for personally. He had invited all councillors to also reveal the details of their campaign costs.
Left: from left, Crs Marli Banks, Jacinta Price, Glen Auricht, Jamie de Brenni. 
Deputy Mayor de Brenni obliged: after detailing his activities for the month, he revealed he had spent $2350 on his campaign, fully funded though his family.
Cr Auricht made no mention of his campaign costs.
Cr Price said her campaign was supported by former councillor Brendan Heenan to the tune of $681; a private individual, whose name would be given to the CEO, had donated $500; and a further $600 came from her own funds.
Next in line was Cr Banks, but she questioned the relevance of what the Mayor was asking for.
He explained that it was because there had been “some discussion around parties and so forth” – presumably meaning that it had been suggested that political parties had backed certain candidates (officially only the case with Greens candidate Jodi Lennox).
Cr Banks said that without scrutiny applying to all candidates in an election she could not see the point. She would support such scrutiny for future elections, in the interests of transparency, upholding best practice and obtaining accurate electioneering data. She imagined such scrutiny would involve a change to the Local Government Act and the involvement of the Electoral Commission.
It was an assertive stance by the new councillor. She gave no information about her costs. Neither did Crs Melky or Cocking.
Cr Paterson said he had spent $726 of his own funds; for Cr Satour, it was just $200, out of her own pocket.


  1. Please dont waste half the money trying to working out how you are going to give it back. Use the money to benefit the community, more art installations down the mall, upgrade the skate park. You have got the money. Use it wisely.

  2. My hat is off to Ely Melky for putting forth such a common sense proposal.
    Ely’s refund proposal is really nothing more than doing what’s right … for instance, if the town council hires a tradie to do work, tradie submits bill for materials, council pays. Then when work is complete tradie finds some materials quoted weren’t needed therefore not purchased.
    Does tradie keep the money for unpurchased materials? No. Tradie refunds it or takes it off the bill.
    That’s the right thing to do. And, that is what Ely’s proposing, refund the ratepayers for services / materials / interest charges etc not needed / used / purchased.

  3. Hear! Hear! Steve Brouwer.
    There are 101 things council can do with the money to benefit the community. Let’s take this windfall opportunity to do some of them.
    Let’s use it to create something which inspires us and makes the town a nicer place.

  4. Keep the money and perhaps put it towards a feasibility study on how ASTC can implement a comprehensive household refuse collection / recycling program.

  5. Please use the money wisely. Spending it to ask us how to spend it is NOT using it wisely! Have the public come forth with suggestions for upgrades, new ideas or maintenance issues or other suggestions by a certain time, submit the ideas to council for voting in an open meeting.
    Set a date for the meeting and submissions = no cost to anyone. Please no more useless wasting of money!

  6. A joint rural farmland project for young offenders to work and create a growth industry near Alice Springs.

  7. Such an astoundingly naive proposal could only ever have originated with one Councillor Melky. As always grandstanding without the slightest thought given to the actual consequences of such a profoundly counter productive decision. Which if carried out to the letter would see a good deal of the windfall funds blown in the name of community consultation. Any attempt to refund it would incur even greater costs reducing any refund to a piddling amount producing no worthwhile outcome for the community, especially when you consider Council has on its books many unfunded, or even worse partially funded, or non completed projects that could have, and indeed should have, been funded partially or otherwise from these funds! Benefiting the Community and its economy as a whole.
    More importantly, not wasting a huge amount of Council’s time and productivity messing about with a messy, unproductive, time wasting and resultantly expensive, refund. Further to that should Council do the sensible thing and allocate the funds to other projects, it will also provide Councillors with a very good argument against further rate rises next year.
    Something I am quite certain, all Rate payers would be relieved to hear.
    New councillors need to be across and take responsibility for their role as Body Corporate style managers of their Community’s assets and not to be so easily be duped into making what may seem on the face of it to be responsible decisions but which are in fact cheap political attention seeking ploys with no regard for what may well turn out to be far reaching consequence…
    Take time to think it all the way through…
    Before you act!

  8. They can give the damned money back!
    We are taxed to the gunnels by all levels of government and enough is enough.

  9. Such a naive idea could only come from the same bloke, Steve, who had the extraordinary ridiculous idea of saving the council and ratepayers the thousands of dollars in the first place.

  10. I am in total agreement with Alana.
    My question on the subject: Who will get the money back? The new owner of the property or the one who used to live there and help to pay the loan?
    My suggestions:
    1. Create a line in the Mall where riders and skateboarders will be welcome.
    2.Create an atmosphere promenade on the sides of the Todd river.

  11. Your’e elected to make decisions council, make them! Just take it off next year’s rates and stop pussy footing around wasting money on how to spend it or how to return it.

  12. Property UCV and Council Rates income would improve if Flood Mitigation is completed – a worthy spend ?

  13. Good on you Eli. Why didn’t you stand for Mayor, by the way?
    iIt should be refunded to the long suffering ratepayers who had to endure five years running of above CPI rate increases because the long incumbent Mayor did not have the smarts to initiate paying off the loan early as you correctly did.
    As for this crap to consult, investigate as to how to reimburse or spend the $528,000. Just pay it back to the ratepayers proportionally, don’t even consider wasting any more of our money on more hair brained schemes please.
    @ Steve Brown: Get real. You did not have any worthwhile achievements during your time in council, don’t stir the waters now.

  14. I agree with Steve Brown. However, the council should put that money to new projects to advance the town or to the hospital where everyone at some time or another will benefit.

  15. As a single parent of four I am on a very tight budget. Add in a family crisis last year andI was under extreme financial stress maintaining regular expenses. I am disappointed to hear council aren’t being more conservative and considerate towards their community with charges. Please return the overcharged moneys as credits onto future council rate charges.

  16. Dear Eli,
    You did the right thing to support the ratepayers.
    The extra money should be refunded to the ratepayers who have supported the town over many years.
    It’s good to see that you have the ratepayers’ interest in mind by paying off the loan.


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