RATEPAYERS are invited to have their say on the draft Rating Strategy Review discussion paper which came before a Special Meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council last Thursday and was released for public consultation this week. Feedback on the discussion paper will be accepted until 5pm Monday, March 10.
The paper was developed by the Rating Strategy Steering Committee, which is comprised of the mayor, two councillors and seven community members representing residential, farm, tourism, commercial and industrial ratepayers and business sectors.
The committee was convened last year and given the task of making recommendations to Council about the principles that it should consider when striking differential rates: how to share equitably the rates burden between various rating categories; changes to the structure of current charges such as the Municipal Charge; and any additional charges or differential rates Council should consider.
CEO Tim Tamlin said that the process to date has already met many points raised in a Victorian Auditor General’s report tabled in Parliament last year on rating practices in local government.
“In establishing the Rating Strategy Steering Committee, we are already well down the track to meeting the report’s recommendations such as community consultation, engagement with the community about how rates are set, and developing a clear rating strategy,” he said.
“Committee members have met frequently to consider the highly complex issues that go into a rating strategy,” said the mayor, Cr Jim Fawcett. “I hope that as many community members as possible will read and comment on the draft discussion paper.”
One of the most significant recommendations is the removal of the flat Municipal Charge. The committee considers this a regressive tax. As the value of properties decreases, the Municipal Charge increases as a percentage of that value. As a result, the rate burden is reduced on higher valued properties but increased on lower value properties. The abolition of the Municipal Charge would have a significant impact across all the land categories. Its removal lowers the rates for a majority of rate payers with lower valued properties in all property categories, but raises the rates for higher valued properties.
There are 19 recommendations in total. Others include:
- that the basis of valuation for rating purposes continues to be Capital Improved Value;
- that Council continues to apply differentials as its rating system;
- that ‘user benefit’ principle is given relatively low weighting and consideration when setting differential rates;
- that the Residential Category differential rate be set at 100 per cent, the Industrial Category and the Commercial Category each at 108 per cent differential rate, and the Farm Category have a 71 per cent differential rate, but only genuine farming operations, as distinct from hobby or rural lifestyle properties;
- that the Vacant Land Category have a 200 per cent differential rate and the Cultural and Recreational Categories have a 50 per cent differential rate.
It should be pointed out that the recommendations of the committee as detailed in the discussion paper are not necessarily representative of the views and opinions of Council. The discussion paper can be viewed at Council offices, local libraries and online at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au. Enquiries: tel. 5662 9200.