Hornsby Mayor Philip Ruddock has eluded in an exclusive interview with the Monthly Chronicle that he is working hard behind the scenes to ensure Hornsby Shire won’t be worse off in the financial outfall of the forced suburb handover to Parramatta last year.
“This is a live, ongoing issue and there have been useful but so far inconclusive discussions with the state government,” Mayor Ruddock said last week. “The outstanding rates of $24 million have been paid back to Parramatta and what’s outstanding now is the Section 94 contributions from developments.
“I can’t say much about this as it’s being contested in the Supreme Court by Parramatta Council who has launched legal proceedings over Section 94 monies and the delivery of services in the Shire. Parramatta is saying the money should be paid to them.”
Section 94 is money paid to a council by developers, in return for being allowed to build in that local government area. Monies collected in one suburb are not necessarily spent in the same area however – they are generally dispersed shire-wide so all areas benefit. Parramatta allegedly feels Section 94 payments collected by Hornsby in Epping belong to them.
It stems from the removal of Epping and Carlingford from Hornsby in the expectation last year’s mooted merger with Ku-ring-gai would go ahead. When that didn’t happen and Premier Berejiklian abandoned her plans for city councils to merge, “it meant we became the only shire that was reduced in size and income.”
Hornsby is now out of pocket $9.1m in reduced income through the loss of these suburbs and some 15,000 ratepaying residents. Some services are being frozen as a result.
“Despite prudent budgeting for years we’re going to be in deficit to the tune of around $2m this year but that means so far we haven’t cut any services.”
Westleigh and Quarry remediation projects were due to be funded with surpluses of which there are now none. “We will progress with these as we can pay for them, along with other services like infrastructure, tree planting, rural roads and footpath maintenance. But if we stay in debt it may take 30 years to deliver our footpath plan.
“It’s a case of prioritising and services like waste collection and libraries. That’s why we’re pursuing this strategically with the state government at every opportunity.”
A Parramatta Council spokesperson said: “As the matter is still before the Supreme Court, City of Parramatta Council is unable to provide a comment on the case at this point in time.”