Rating strategy released

ARARAT - Ararat Rural City Council has released its draft Rating Strategy for public comment, with the differential weightings for 2014/2015 to remain the same as the previous year.

Council will raise the municipal rates by the application of four differential rates, with commercial properties at 160 per cent of the general rate, industrial properties at 130 per cent of the general rate and farm properties at 60 per cent of the general rate.

Cr Fay Hull said the differential Rating Strategy, as part of the overall Rating Strategy, had been carefully considered by councillors.

"However this strategy will always be the subject of review and changes may be envisaged in the future, although the rating strategy remains the same for this year," she said.

Cr Hull said the basis of the strategy is based on the Benefit Principle, included in the Strategy, which follows the premise that while it is acknowledged that not all ratepayers will directly use all of the services provided by Council, the programs and services are provided to deliver an improved quality of life for the whole community.

"For all those seeking to understand the reasoning behind having and determining the strategy this is a valuable resource," she said of the Benefit Principle information in the Rating Strategy.

Cr Hull said the draft strategy for 2014-15 saw an average of rates paid in the four different differentials of: general $1216, commercial $3197, industrial $2016 and farm $2852.

"These averages of rates paid, reflect the levels of wealth, based on land values, in each sector," Cr Hull said.

"Nonetheless there can be considerable differences in the amount paid by individuals within each differential.

"Looking at the changes in the rates raised, once the municipal charge is included, in each differential since 1996 it is interesting to note that the percentage of rates and charges paid by the general sector has increased by eight per cent, the percentage of rates and charges paid by the rural sector has decreased by five per cent and the percentage of rates and charges paid by the commercial and industrial sectors has increased by around one per cent."

One of the main differences of this year's strategy is that it will allow for four payment options, including:

Four equal instalments

Fortnightly payments during the rate payment period

Lump sum payment prior to October 30, and

The option of a one off annual payment in April 2015.

Cr Colin McKenzie voiced his objection to the rating strategy and voted against its adoption.

"I oppose sending this to public for submission, in so much is that I believe one sector, the farming sector, is treated unfairly and as the Act specifies, all sectors must be treated in fairness," Cr McKenzie said.

A revaluation of all properties in the municipality was carried out and will apply for the 2014/2015 financial year.

Following this revaluation there has been an overall increase in valuations for all differential property types: general valuations increased by 0.36 per cent, commercial valuations increased by 10.18 per cent, industrial valuations increased by 7.52 per cent and farm valuations increased by only two per cent.

Cr McKenzie said following the previous valuations two years ago he queried how, when farms property prices had fallen by 25 to 30 per cent how property valuations could only decrease by seven and now two years later property valuations were increasing by a further two and a quarter per cent.

"So in actual fact, the farming sector is paying on a valuation that is not relevant out in the field," he said.

Cr McKenzie also raised the issue of the amount of rates farmers pay, anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000.

"They're not the ones that have the million dollar demands, they haven't got performing arts centres that need plush seats and air conditioning, they have little halls they do up themselves," he said.

"The amount of services they require is far less than what they're actually called for to pay for out of rates.

"In actual fact, the further they get from Ararat those farmers are actually subsidising all the improvements within this city.

"We don't object to Ararat being a great city, to having the facilities, but we do need the user pays principal to come into action, a bigger percentage goes on to the general and less goes on the farming area.

"I would suggest we should be going back to last year's level of 52.5 per cent with an endeavour to get it back to 50 per cent, which would be far more equitable."

Copies of the draft Rating Strategy are available for inspection at the municipal offices or online at www.ararat.vic.gov.au

Submissions close at 5.15pm on June 6.


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