Under pressure, we applied ourselves to the Rates Review discussion document on the South Gippsland Shire website. Pressure because of other commitments and the short time allowed for submissions.
Rating is an important issue, but what 100 pages of explanation and bar graphs come up with is hardly a revolution.
However, the outcome for the largest industrial and commercial businesses, very significant employers in the shire, looks to be harsh. The biggest farmers might not be happy either.
For the great majority of ratepayers, changes in the amount to pay, based on 2014 rates, are not dramatic.
However, people need to realise that if the recommendations are passed by council, there will still be the coming shire budget’s rate increase to add to the calculations in the review.
Seeing that the shire habitually increases rates by 6 or 7 per cent, those expecting large reductions in the next rate bill are likely to be disappointed.
We do not agree with the total abolition of the municipal charge.
It could be reduced. We also think the suggested 71 per cent differential for farmers and 108 per cent for commercial and industrial properties is not fair.
We support concessions for farm properties but believe the above is excessive. It amounts to a 37 per cent differential between farm properties and commercial and industrial properties (71 per cent for farm; 108 per cent for commercial and industrial).
So if a farmer’s rate bill comes to $1000, an industrial or commercial business with the same valuation would pay $1370.
As well, the owner would pay a residential rate bill if he or she lives in the shire, while the farmer’s house is rated as part of the farm.
With substantial commercial buildings vacant and export-oriented industries disadvantaged by the high dollar, very big increases in rates are not helpful.
We realise that export markets for farmers producing meat animals and for dairy farmers are also affected by the high dollar.
When the Cain Government changed the legislation to allow an equal charge to be paid on all properties up to a total across all ratepayers of 20 per cent of rate income, the effect was to increase rates for the lowest value properties and reduce rates for the highest value.
Municipalities who adopted the idea saw the municipal charge as providing some incentive for large commercial or industrial businesses to establish in the municipality; and those with a significant agricultural base saw the advantage for commercial farmers whose properties were usually higher value than those of salaried residents, for example.
That was the thinking when the Shire of Woorayl adopted a municipal charge of 20 per cent of total rates revenue.
The municipal charge when first adopted was under $100.
As the general rates take ballooned, so did the municipal charge.
An option to reduce its percentage was not taken up or examined in the review, which opposes a municipal charge on principle.
Only 21 days were allowed for people to think about this and make submissions.
Does the council want genuine community discussion and thinking about this or not?
Peter and Wilma Western, Leongatha.