The adoption of the council's budget and associated documents has been deferred in a surprise twist after lengthy debate.
Now time is of the essence.
CEO Dr Clare Allen said Port Macquarie-Hastings Council had until next week to adopt its budget.
She said if that didn't happen, the council could not pay staff wages or continue its business.
The deferral decision to an extraordinary council meeting before June 30 was made at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday (June 23).
It followed a move by mayor Peta Pinson for the council to adopt the suite of integrated planning and reporting documents with a rate freeze at 2021-2022 levels from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025 and removal of the Town Centre Master Plan (TCMP) levy.
Cr Rachel Sheppard wanted, as a matter of great urgency, a rescission motion to be considered in a bid to reverse the council's earlier decision not to include the TCMP levy in the draft 2022-2023 operational plan and consider the future direction following the completion of a review.
But after a vote with majority support to consider the matter, Cr Pinson exercised her right to rule the matter was not of great urgency. She said there had been numerous debates within the chambers about the TCMP, the TCMP Committee and TCMP rates.
The TCMP levy funds CBD improvements and a higher level of town centre maintenance.
Cr Pinson said the community and country were heading into some really difficult financial times.
"Councillors, many people are geared to their financial eyeballs at the moment," she said.
"Any small ripple is going to be like a tsunami for them. Our society has changed where we really do have to tighten our belt, and I am asking councillors to consider tightening the belt of council, so we find those efficiencies and savings so we can serve our community with a generous spirit and provide this 1.7 [per cent] rate freeze."
Cr Lisa Intemann said the council had independent advice and a report from council staff which recommended against what the mayor had proposed.
The council report recommended the adoption of the suite of documents including the 1.7 per cent allowable rate increase and the TCMP component of the Port Macquarie CBD business rate.
Cr Intemann said the mayor's motion, in effect, would cost council over $1 million a year for the TCMP, and just under $1 million a year for the rate freeze to a benefit to landowners of $20 a year.
Cr Sheppard said the council had received internal staff advice, external independent subject matter expertise and the words from the community during the consultation and the council could not ignore that.
But the mayor said the council's engagement was underwhelming and she was listening to the community.
Deputy mayor Adam Roberts said the operational plan and budget were much bigger than the two items of rates and the TCMP.
He described it as the "people's budget", saying it was about trying to find a balance for everybody.
Dr Allen said the council could wear a rate freeze for one year but any longer would have serious consequences for the community.
She also spoke about the implications of removing the TCMP levy including a job loss and $600,000 in terms of maintenance that the council would not be able to cover in the budget.
Cr Sharon Griffiths said she would like to look further into the TCMP matter and the feedback.
A move, put forward by Cr Intemann, to defer the matter to an extraordinary council meeting before June 30, was carried.
Cr Intemann said she believed the council should defer the matter and come back when councillors could consider the TCMP and move forward from there.
The mayor said the councillors had come into the chamber to deliver a budget and they were coming precariously close to June 30.
Deputy mayor Adam Roberts questioned what different position the elected body would have in a few days but Cr Lauren Edwards said there was still a lot of questions for some councillors.
The deferral motion was carried five to four.
The adoption of the suite of documents and the 2022-2023 rates and charges will come back to another extraordinary council meeting before June 30. The notice of rescission motion about the TCMP will also be a meeting agenda item.
Cr Roberts is due to be out of the country next week.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.