Cootamundra-Gundagai Mayor Abb McAlister has described a projected special rate rise of up to 60% as an 'amalgamation tax'.
In a short, hard-hitting comment to the NSW Boundaries Commission public meeting in Cootamundra on Wednesday, Councillor McAlister said that over the next three years, ratepayers would be handed the bill for the cost blow-outs that have resulted from the amalgamation.
The former shires of Cootamundra and Gundagai were forcibly amalgamated by the NSW government in 2016, despite strong opposition from both towns.
Cr McAlister said that whether or not the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council (CGRC) was de-amalgamated, there would have to be a "special rate variation" (SRV) if the region's local government were to stay afloat.
The recently-released financial study carried out for the Commission by international financial consultants Deloitte, estimated there would have to be an SRV of 52% over the next three years for the council or councils to remain financially sustainable - but Cr McAlister said it could go as high as 60%, permanent.
"And that's just to sustain the services we supply to our communities now," he said.
"About six or seven years ago we had a special rate variation in Gundagai to cover the cost of improvements to the main road.
"It was a special, temporary tax to provide something for the community - but what we're going to have to charge now won't be a true SRV, it's will be a tax because it will only be to keep the services, to fix the road, cut the grass, take the garbage away, to do things we do now."
Cr McAlister said that he was proud to be Mayor of Cootamundra-Gundagai, even though he was originally against the merger.
"I felt I had to give it a go, and stood for council and I got on, and I wanted to work for a cohesive council.
"But unfortunately, through no fault of the great councillors we have - we get on well - and the staff are great - we have been financially damaged by amalgamation.
"Back in 2016 both the shire councils, Cootamundra and Gundagai, were financially sustainable.
"We had two good councils that were well run, yet within 28 months of coming together we were told by TCorp that they wouldn't lend us money to do the works on the Cootamundra water mains that definitely needed work because we were financially unsustainable.
"Why is it? It's because of the extra costs the councils had to bear from amalgamation."