FOSTER’S Ralph Gallagher and Meg Knight believe item 5.1.1 (Ratings Strategy 2018/19) is one of the most important things on South Gippsland Shire Council’s agenda.
The pair were passionate advocates for change when they were part of the Council-appointed Rating Strategy Steering Committee, leading the charge on a ratings system that would help not hurt those who could least afford to pay.
In the end, however, they wrote their own minority report, because the committee’s report “did not take into account the burden placed on several classes within the ratepaying population,” Mr Gallager said.
“I’m deeply concerned that Council will not give due consideration to key points offered in the minority report. That report has not been highlighted in any of Council’s discussions to date,” he told The Mirror.
The committee comprised of six nominees, an independent non-voting chairperson and three councillors (Cr Don Hill, Cr Alyson Skinner and Cr Maxine Kiel).
As it stands, there is a recommendation to maintain the status quo on rates, while also talking about applying a Municipal Charge.
“The efforts of one councillor on the Review Committee were focused on a further reduction in the farming category without any attempt to the accept the impact on this proposed change on all other ratepayers,” Mr Gallagher said.
“There is already a significant differential favouring the farming category. Shire data provided to the committee clearly shows that for like valued properties across the four categories.
“Data in our report shows that for a property where the capital improved value is $500,000, in each case the rates impost is much less for the farming category.”
Using the $500,000 example, the data revealed farming properties as the lowest rated at $1810 – while a commercial property owner would be slugged $2994, a residential property owner $2731 and industrial property owner $3259.
The pair reject the idea of reintroducing a Municipal Charge.
“Council has already declared that such a devise is a regressive charge, negatively affecting lower valued property rates and offering advantage to higher valued ones,” Mrs Knight said.
Mr Gallagher said it was point previously acknowledged by Council and farmers were compensated as part of the last review.
“Most importantly the proposal to reduce farming differential again this time around was never justified. Several anecdotes cases were identified by proponents, but no evidence was presented. It was a poor presentation,” he said.
Mrs Knight said the minority report also proposed greater encouragement – through rates reductions – to prospective businesses, whether industrial or commercial. It was something she believed could well support Council’s growth strategy.
“Ralph and I are both critical of the processes followed for the review and believe very strongly that Council is at a flashpoint as it considers this major element of community business,” she said.
The pair believe Council must show it is concerned with the whole of South Gippsland, not just the farming sector.