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Council backs businesses

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is refusing to drop farm rates and hit small businesses with higher rates bills.
At last Wednesday’s council meeting, Cr Don Hill pushed for farmers to pay a rating differential of 65 percent of the general rate – down from 70 percent. He expected the resulting shortfall in council’s rates income to be largely footed by an increase for commercial and industrial ratepayers of 110 percent and 120 percent respectively – up from the current 105 percent.
Those figures were the draft recommendations of council’s Rating Strategy Review Steering Committee, but were not supported by all committee members. The Star understands the proposed reduction in farm rates divided the committee.
That division resulted in council opting to undertake its own review over the next 12 months and retain the existing rating differentials for now.
Cr Hill last Wednesday lost his bid for the committee’s recommendation to be released to the public for comment. He moved a motion to do so, but failed to attract support from other councillors.
The rating committee of councillors and members of the public considered how the rates burden was shared by all ratepayers.
Other councillors, including farmers mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt, Cr Aaron Brown and Cr Ray Argento, felt existing farm rates were just. South Gippsland’s farm rates differential is the lowest in Gippsland.
Cr Hill said, “I just find it quite appalling that the rating committee spent all that time and effort, and we just throw it out”, despite council voting to consider the committee’s recommendations when making its decision in 12 months’ time.
Cr Hill claimed Cr Brunt directed a council officer to not accept the committee’s recommendations after holding a vote of councillors by email – a claim the mayor rejected.
Cr Hill tabled a rescission motion for the April 26 council meeting, but that would have prevented council from satisfying legislative timelines for the release of its budget and council plan for public submissions – documents to which the rating strategy is linked.
Therefore Cr Hill’s motion was considered at an urgent special meeting last Wednesday, but neither Cr Hill nor his ally Cr Andrew McEwen could attend. His rescission motion was lost unanimously. Councillors Alyson Skinner and Jeremy Rich were absent.
Cr McEwen said the proposed increase for small businesses would equate to $20 to $28 a week.
“If they can’t afford that, they probably should not be in business,” he said.
Cr Maxine Kiel said the rating committee process was “flawed from the beginning”, “dominated by the farming sector” and “self interest”.
She said the second rating review committee had again been a “treacherous process”, with farming rates also dominating deliberations of the previous rating review.
Cr Brown said rates for commercial properties worth $500,000 in South Gippsland were the second highest in Gippsland, and the same for industrial properties worth $400,000.
Cr Brunt said, “For me, as a farmer, a ratepayer and councillor, and my primary source of income is farming, I consider myself to be a good councillor who is fair and decisive and considers all ratepayers.”

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=24549

Posted by on Mar 27 2018. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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