I applaud the South Gippsland Shire Council for making the decision to retain the current Rating Strategy for 12 months whilst an internal review is carried out.
There is clearly a wide divergence of views around the council table and also with majority and minority reports coming from the Rating Strategy Review Committee.
However I do ask the council to ensure that rational debate on rating strategy is based on a correct understanding of rating principles and only statistics verified by the Finance Department should be put on the table. It was disappointing that this was clearly not the case at the council meeting on March 21.
Cr Brown made a thoughtful and reasoned contribution analysing verified statistics which compared rates paid at various levels of Capital Improved Values by different groups within our shire and comparing our shire to our neighbouring councils.
Cr Kiel made a strong contribution on behalf of the commercial and industrial groups to retain rating differentials at their current level and cited her references.
However Cr Hill simply made the bald assertion that Cr Brown was “wrong” but gave no evidence to support this statement (By the way, Cr Brown was totally correct).
Cr Hill justified his alternate motion that industrial and commercial differential rates should be substantially increased by anecdotal evidence that he had walked around Leongatha and noted the number of people employed and therefore the sector was very profitable.
This is an absurd economic analysis.
In addition, Cr Hill asserted that the council had spent “millions” on industrial and commercial sectors. This statement is not backed up by an analysis of council budgets over recent years.
Distorted unverified statistics supporting an additional differential for farmers and the revised definition of farm land for rating purposes was offered by Cr Hill which clearly overrode the principles of a rating strategy which considers all ratepayers in our shire.
(All information above can be verified by listening to the recording of the meeting.)
Whilst rating is a complex subject I refer councillors to the information in the Best Practice Guidelines for Rating and Revenue Strategy and the Ministerial Guidelines for Differential Rating in their decision making.
It is difficult for a good decision to be made for all ratepayers when outrage, confected statistics and distorted analysis is put on the table and seems to override attempts at rational and reasoned debate.
Megan Knight, Foster.