Liverpool Plains Shire Council is breathing a sigh of relief after the NSW government announced it will subsidise local government election costs in 2020.
The council was facing a potential bill of $82,000 after the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended a 62 per cent increase in its draft report as part of a review of local government election costs. It paid $49,000 in 2016-2017.
Now that the final report has been released, Liverpool Plains will crunch numbers to determine the costs it may face, and on September 25, will vote on an electoral service provider for 2020.
"This is great news for our community because if the state government had simply accepted ... that the NSW Electoral Commission be allowed to increase the amount charged to conduct council elections by around 62 per cent, our ratepayers would have been slugged over $82,000 for their basic right to cast a vote at the 2020 election," council mayor Andrew Hope said.
"That would have meant a cost of about $14.37 for each of our eligible 5,700 plus voters, which was in itself discriminatory as metropolitan councils were only looking at $9.54 per elector.
"It would have also cut into our 2019/20 budget as it was already formulated prior to the original announcement regarding the proposed increase."
Cr Hope said the "breathing space" would enable LGNSW and the state government to develop "a fairer, more transparent and sustainable long-term solution" to prevent councils from "having to fund elections by cutting services or reducing infrastructure maintenance".
"I understand LGNSW will also raise issues with Minister [Shelley] Hancock on further election issues such as universal postal voting and shorter pre-poll voting periods which may also help to reduce costs," he said.
Gunnedah Shire Council voted this week to appoint the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) but voiced great disappointment in no longer being able to run its own election after a new law was passed.
The councillors were "forced" to vote on a provider without knowing the costs because IPART's final report was not released until that day; the same day the subsidy was announced.
The state government said councils would now only pay the direct costs incurred by NSWEC, such as polling booth staff, venue costs and ballot paper printing.
Almost $20 million will be given to NSWEC to fund "core costs" including staff payroll, training and IT system development.