A rate that’s a bit rich?

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Tamahere’s $70 per property targeted rate brings in the most money for a community hall in the Waikato district by a considerable margin.

In 2021/22 it brought in more than $115,000 and, since 2007, a total of well over $1 million.

Of the 32 halls across the district, only Port Waikato residents pay a higher hall rate – $125 – but that netted a more modest $54,000 in the same year because of its smaller rating base. Tuakau’s hall fund was $91,000 that year from a lower rate of $46 because of its greater number of rateable properties.

The Orini Hall had an income of $5000 from a targeted rate in 2020-21

Around the district, halls are different ages and in different condition. Comparisons are difficult, including on their varying funding rates, listed in the council annual plan. They show the bulk of annual hall rate income ranges from $2000 to around $41,000.

The key question for Tamahere is that as the Devine Rd community centre hits 15 years old does it still need to be funded at its current chart topping amount.

The seemingly simple question, raised by the Tamahere Community Committee (TCC), has proved difficult to answer. The Waikato District Council’s response has been slow and confusing; the hall committee has gone to ground.

TCC chair Sue Robertson is in favour of targeted rates.

“It enables people to pay directly for the resources and services they want in their community,” she said.

But her committee has sought answers from the council for around a year on the management of the funds collected. It would like to see accountability and transparency for the two Tamahere targeted rates, something it believes should apply district-wide for all targeted rates. (Tamahere’s targeted rates are $70 for the hall and $38 for the playground and facilities in Tamahere Park.)

TCC would also like to see more public accountability from the Tamahere Community Centre Committee, an incorporated society, which manages the much used hall beside Tamahere School.

“I’m hopeful they [the hall committee] will put out a long term maintenance plan and budget to show the residents what funds will be required over the next 10 to 15 years to maintain the hall,” Robertson said.

More on this topic: Hall in great hands: principal

The response to the TCC’s initiatives have been agonisingly slow.

It was only after this story ran last week that Robertson got a meaningful reply to the committee’s June request for detail about the hall rate.

Council chief financial officer Alison Diaz supplied a spreadsheet of figures related to the targeted rate from 2008-09 to 2021-22. Community venues and events team leader Samantha Baker also replied with information about the recent appointment of a fulltime halls officer, whose tasks will include a review of targeted hall rates district-wide.

Halls around the district, like Tuakau’s, are in varying condition.

“There is a large disparity across the district with halls in varying conditions. This review is to ensure there is adequate funds to cover running costs and maintenance for the long term preservation of these community assets,” Baker wrote.

What did the numbers show?

The council’s accounts threw up some discrepancies both within the chief financial officer’s spreadsheet and with other figures TCC had been supplied last year. Robertson, an accountant, is seeking clarification.

Back in 2005-06, the estimated cost of the new hall in the council annual plan was $1,540,000. Funding contributions from the council, charitable trusts and local fundraising meant a loan of $207,000 would be required for 10 years, according to the council document.

The loan would be from the council to the Tamahere Community Centre Incorporated (aka the hall committee).

The initial estimates seem to have been wide of the mark. Subsequently, in November 2021, council chief information officer Geoff King told hall committee chair Graham McAdam in an email that in 2007 the council resolved the loan would be $423,206 and “was for a term of 15 years with a maturity date of June 2022.”

The chief financial officer’s figures differ. She said the loan was established in June 2008, was for $381,888 and was to be paid back over a much longer term – 50 years. Later, the term was revised to 15 years because of the increase in rateable properties in Tamahere bringing in more money, her information showed.

But both accounts agree on one thing – the loan was to be fully paid in June 2022. In other words, last month.

What now for the $70 targeted rate?

The rate not only repaid the loan, with interest. A portion of it – originally $20 – was for hall operational costs and it has been paid directly to the hall committee, netting it more than $46,000 in 2020. The hall committee did not handle the loan portion, an internal transaction within the council. (The rate started at $60, rising to $66 and finally $70 over the years.)

Now the loan has been paid off logic suggests only the proportion the hall committee has directly had for repairs and maintenance will be needed in future.

Is it time to reduce the richest hall rate in the district?

Chief information officer Geoff King told McAdam in an email in July that he had “discussed the impact of the loan being repaid with our CFO and apparently as a result of the TR [targeted rate] funding both the loan (which consumes roughly 40% of the TR) and the operating costs of the hall it does not automatically stop at 30-June” [our emphasis].

He suggested a review was in order along with consultation with the ratepayers.

” … with the loan being repaid and also recognising the increasing cost of operating the hall (insurance, maintenance costs, etc) it would likely be prudent for the committee to review, [with] appropriate community engagement, what would be an appropriate TR moving forward,” King advised.

Hall will be revealed?

But the hall committee is barely engaging with the community. It’s filings to the incorporated society register have been spasmodic. It was deregistered for failing to file between 2008 and 2021 when it did a quick catch up, filed three years’ of accounts in one hit and getting back on the register.

It’s annual meetings have been advertised but few locals turn up. Afterwards, no AGM minutes are available nor records from its ordinary meetings public. It should have at least 10 members, according to its rules. There is no information on its members on the incorporated society register or its own website. Three names are listed on the council’s website.

Earlier this month, chair Graham McAdam posted an open letter to the community on social media. He declined an interview with Tamahere Forum for this earlier story. Relations between him and TCC are tetchy.

Seeking clarification, the Forum this week sought an interview with hall committee treasurer Allan Spice, one was arranged but he cancelled, emailing to say that “on the advice of the council I have been advised to not engage.”

McAdam wrote in his letter that his committee had voted at its annual meeting for the targeted rate to continue at $70. Costs were rising, he said, intimating that the entire rate take, including the around $41,000 annual portion that had been devoted to loan repayment, would be needed to maintain and run the community centre for the forseeable future.

In 2022-23, that would give the hall committee an estimated income of $117,000. Tens of thousands more than most other halls in the district.

The silence from the hall committee leaves unanswered why Tamahere, with its relatively young, 15 year old hall, needs substantially more money than any other of the 32 halls across the district.

Robertson hopes her community committee and the hall committee will soon be able to meet to candidly discuss the future of the hall. Long term, TCC would like to see full disclosure about all targeted rates on a dedicated section on the council website.

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