ARARAT Rural City councilors took the opportunity at their June ordinary meeting to critique the ratings system as the state government's ratings review gets underway.
The council adopted its 2019-20 budget at the meeting, where Councilor Jo Armstrong said she supported the budget but the current state government ratings review was "not enough."
"The whole issue of a rating strategy is something that all councils are grappling with across rural and regional Victoria," she said.
"We know through our own experience that differential rating is not the best solution, but that's what we had to work with. We do know that rural rates burdens are inequitable for all land categories and that's something we're really conscious of in this council."
Cr Armstrong called on rural and regional councils to keep pressure on the state government.
"The ongoing burden of cost shifting from state government and the inequitable nature of our taxation system is something we really need to keep this pressure on the state government to review," she said.
"With their rating strategy it's not enough to just look at capping on rates, it's not enough to look at the tools of differential rating.
"I hope our neighbouring councils and all regional and rural councils are keen to take up this opportunity we have to work together as a small council group to maintain pressure.
"It's unsustainable; it's absolutely unfair."
Ararat mayor Councilor Peter Beales said he wasn't "a great supporter of the rating review."
"Rating is simply just not fair," he said.
"It's just not the system we need. We need something else that's not based on the alleged value of land."
However, the council's need of revenue could not be denied.
Cr Beales said the budget included a 2.5 per cent rate rise, which was in line with the state government's Fair Go Rates System, which caps Victorian local government rate rises to 2.5 per cent each year.
This comes after a zero rate rise last year.
"Council is mindful to keep rate rises within the cap but it is important that rates rise by 2.5 per cent each year to ensure inflationary impacts do not erode our capacity to manage recurrent expenditure or deliver infrastructure and services to the community," Cr Beales said.
Highlights from the budget itself included:
- $14.689 million on capital works including:
- $350,000 for the Elmhurst Hall redevelopment; o $400,000 for female-friendly amenities at the Willaura Recreation Reserve;
- $750,000 for upgrades to the Buangor-Ben Nevis Road; o $909,000 on bridge upgrades; o $50,000 on rural halls upgrades.
- A $534,000 reduction in the salaries budget.
- A surplus of $3.214 million with an underlying result of a $155,000 deficit, an improvement from the deficit of $3.873 million last year.
- A doubling of grants to hall committees and recreation reserves to $58,600.
- $959,763 for arts, culture and heritage.
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