DESPITE contributing 10 per cent of South Gippsland Shire Council’s rates revenue, Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower only get 0.7 per cent back.
That was the key point of frustration raised at a community meeting hosted by the South Gippsland Rates Challengers on Sunday evening at the Venus Bay Community Centre.
Close to 50 ratepayers attended, a mix of permanents and holiday home owners who wanted to know where their rates were going.
The South Gippsland Rates Challengers where there to highlight how high the rates are, and why the council must do more to cut costs.
Steve Finlay explained that a $655,000 property in South Gippsland would attract a rates notice of $3407. In East Gippsland, a property of the same value would be billed $2578. On the Mornington Peninsula, the rates bill would be just $1355.
This is despite the average salary being 26 per cent below the state average, and 31 per cent of the population over 60 years of age, compared to the state average of 21 per cent.
“The council justifies the high rates by saying we have a small population and a large road network to maintain.
“But in the time it has taken our population to increase 14 per cent, our rates have increased by 95 per cent.
“The council has to make rates more affordable, equitable and fair. The South Gippsland Shire Council is living beyond its means.”
Cr Alyson Skinner was the council’s only representative at the meeting and said the council was in a strong financial position to start reducing rates.
“Unlike neighbouring councils, we have no debt, and part of our council plan over four years was supposed to be a rate reduction of three per cent.”
So with cash in the bank, where should it be spent? One ratepayer at Sunday’s meeting said “everyone has different views”.
“Venus Bay needs a vision of what we want.
“A lot wanted a nice, sleepy town, but a lot have people have moved here since.
“We’re not unified in what we want. We need a big discussion involving all of Venus Bay and until we have that, not much is going to change.
“We need to be as one.”