Mayor Isaac Smith addresses Lismore City Council about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the community.
Mayor Isaac Smith addresses Lismore City Council about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the community.

How will COVID-19 impact Lismore ratepayers?

LISMORE City Council will work to alleviate any financial pressure ratepayers will be facing in the months ahead, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads.

The council voted unanimously in an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon that ratepayers will be offered a hardship clause for anyone struggling to pay their rates during this time.

The council will extend the commencement of interest accruals on overdue notices by 60 days.

The council also decided to temporarily remove the following fees:

  • Community facility hire fees – Full refunds for bookings made in advance that now have to be cancelled;
  • Commercial use of footpaths – No fees for a period of 15 months from 1 April to 30 June 2021 to allow businesses to re-establish when they open;
  • Community group tenancy rentals
  • Market Fees, including Farmers Market – No fees for period 1 April to 30 September;
  • Building Owner Fire Certificate processing fees for one year;

Mayor Isaac Smith said the council will also continue to petition the state and federal government for financial assistance as COVID-19 recovery is going to cost “millions of dollars”.

However, a rate freeze is out of the question at the moment, as the council still needs to fund its core services and the lack of “cashflow” the rate changes will create.

“It’s very hard what to do and it’s obviously a changing situation,” cr Smith said.

“We expect people to pay rates and our rates will go down, if our rates goes down our core services. need to be adjusted somehow.

“That’s the discussion we’re going to have … and what the coming services will be for the next 12-18 months.”

The council has already had to let go of 73 staff members since the outbreak started to impact the region.

Cr Smith said it was a “tough decision” to let staff go but it was “just the start” if the council had any chance of continuing to deliver it’s “core work in our community”.

Despite the budget concerns, the council decided not at this time to apply for any loans to cover costs.

Cr Elly Bird said the council understands how the “community is hurting right now”.

“We are all members of the community; we are all experience what is happening,” Cr Bird said.

“We absolutely see what is happening out there to our community, we feel the pain.

“We know what you’re going through and we’re here with you.”

The council will be meeting again next week the financial impact to council business and also on the cost of a freeze to interest charged on overdue rates for a period of up to 15 months.

Meanwhile, council also voted unanimously to waive landing fees at Lismore Regional Airport for Regional Express (REX) to assist in retaining passenger flights post the COVID-

19 pandemic.

The fees will be waived until December 31, 2020.

“It’s not surprising, a lot of businesses are hurting at this stage the airline industry being one of the main ones,” Cr Neil Marks said.

“We need to do what we can to ease the burden.”

More to come.