Residents in the Dubbo local government area are likely to be hit by four significant rate rises.
It comes after Dubbo Regional Council admitted it was facing challenges and called in the AEC Group to undertake a financial review.
Here's how it happened and what it means for ratepayers.
Why was the review undertaken?
The council has reported consolidated net operating deficits for four financial years in a row, starting in 2019/20.
In November 2021, council made its financial difficulties public.
Dubbo council revealed it would have recorded an $11 million deficit for the 2020/21 if it wasn't for grants.
Council's chief executive officer Murray Wood said at the time that the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic had been "far-reaching" and it had hurt the organisation's avenue streams.
Mr Wood said council's financial position in coming years would be "under significant duress".
In September 2023, the council made the decision to hire AEC to help look into the finances.
At the time, mayor Mathew Dickerson said the council was committed to addressing "long term financial challenges" and the report would give recommendations on addressing those concerns.
"These challenges have arisen for a number of reasons including increased demand on services, cost shifting and ageing infrastructure," he said.
What have they recommended?
One of the biggest recommendations from AEC is for the council to increase rates by 37.1 per cent across four years.
AEC said it was needed to "fix the structural operating deficit position and to generate sufficient cash from operations".
"This is an unavoidable option, with the only variable being the urgency of implementing the correction," the report states.
The recommendation is for the special rate variation to start in 2024/25. It would see rates go up by 10 per cent each year.
"As estimated by AEC, the current operating deficit is approximately $15 million in the general fund and cash being generated from operations is insufficient to fund adequate renewals and maintenance of the current assets controlled by council," the report said.
Each year, IPART sets the rate peg limit, which determines the maximum amount by which councils across the state can increase their rates.
For any council to increase rates above that limit, it has to be approved by IPART. For the council to increase rates by 10 per cent, it needs to be justified.
But it's not all on the ratepayer.
AEC has also made recommendations for the council to improve efficiencies.
The council "should conduct a thorough review of the range of services provided and the current cost of operations... to identify areas where productivity measures could be implemented and are most likely to achieve material improvements...".
The council was also told to look at a reduction in service provision, reducing debt by selling off surplus assets and increasing revenue through an increase in service fees, rates and/or charges.
One of the suggestions by AEC is for the council to adopt a risk-based approach to asset management. Essentially, prioritising assets based on their "likelihood of failure" and prioritising maintenance based on the areas that need the most attention.
What happens now?
At the November ordinary council meeting on Thursday night, the councillors voted to delay making a decision on the rate rise until next year.
The rates for 2023/24 will be increased by five per cent.
The decision was made to allow the council more time to inform the public about the potential rate rise and the reasons behind it.
The council also voted to undertake an internal review to find ways it could save money.
Councillor Matt Wright said the review would provide transparency to the public so they could see the ways council was "trying to scrape the barrel" and "save as much money as possible".
"I think this council has an opportunity before making that decision (on the rates) to look internally and find some ways to maintain some levels of efficiency and some cost savings before we go ahead and make any decisions on any future special rates variations," Cr Wright said.
The report from the AEC Group found without additional generation of cash, the enhanced asset renewals can only be funded to 2024/2025 from existing cash held by the council.
An additional $239.1 million is required to be invested in asset renewals such as roads, facilities and water and sewerage infrastructure over the next 10 years to maintain the council's infrastructure.
"We want to build a financially sustainable future but also work to undertake genuine ethical community engagement with our local residents to inform the community on council's current economic position and look at opportunities to make cost savings across the organisation," Mr Wood said.
"Council aims to do the best we can for the community, and it is only by being open and transparent about these challenges that we can then make hard decisions, but we make them knowing they are well informed decisions with the evidence to support them."