Hip pocket hurt


THE community has overwhelmingly called for cheaper rates in South Gippsland Shire.

Recent rates notices have caused bill shock in households and businesses across the region, as expressed on The Star’s Facebook page last week (see separate story).

Ratepayers are fed up with paying exorbitant rates bills, while others say they get far too few services for what they pay in rates.

Leongatha accountant Tim Kemp said South Gippsland Shire rates are much higher than most other shires, while Venus Bay ratepayer Donna Miller said, “Venus Bay, one acre house and block, no rubbish collection included in rates. No post. Nearly $3000 per year. Absolute rip off. Keeps going up every year!!! Disgraceful”.

Now the community now has a chance to influence future rates.

Council is calling for nominations from the community to join a Rating Strategy Steering Committee that will review the rating principles and differentials.

The previous Rating Strategy Review resulted in a lower differential for farmers but increased the differential paid by commercial and industrial ratepayers, as well as vacant landholders, whose rates rose by 50 percent.

That review deemed farmers were less able to pay higher rates due to being asset rich but cash poor, while commercial and industrial rates were paid from pre-tax money and so those ratepayers effectively received a higher tax benefit.

The municipal charge was also phased out over two years as the review committee assumed people living in lower valued properties were also on lower incomes and therefore less likely to be able to pay.

The first review, chaired by former councillor Jim Fawcett, also involved Cr Don Hill and the pair clashed over differences of opinion, as revealed by subsequent panel hearings that considered, in part, the pair’s conduct.

Cr Hill last week said many people in the community were interested in joining the new review committee.

“I believe we will get a higher quantity of people this time and the calibre will go up because the community sees this as something to be involved with,” he said.

Cr Hill confirmed he would nominate as a councillor representative, saying he believed overall rates could be reduced.

“One of the main reasons I stood for council in 2012 was to bring equity to the rate system,” he said.

“I moved the motion in this year’s budget council meeting to direct the CEO to reduce the rates by three percent over the four years of this council.”

Cr Lorraine Brunt, who was part of the previous committee, will not be nominating this time round, believing “the committee must be a complete new set of eyes”.

“Then we can see if the new committee comes up with a completely different rating system or much the same as four years ago,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity for new councillors to support the selected community without having a biased view to any rate category, whilst gaining a thorough understanding of the rating system, and then making a fair and equitable decision at the table on the rates system.

“I would love to be in the committee but this would be unfair to those councillors who wish to put their hand up and have not had the opportunity previously.”

For this review, council will seek an independent chair and pay them a sitting fee of $300 per meeting for committee meetings and to attend council briefings, in a bid to attract a quality chair. The chair would not have voting rights.

At last Wednesday’s council meeting, councillors debated whether to ensure the chair came from outside the shire but did not support this idea of Cr Hill’s.

Cr Meg Edwards attempted to reduce the chair’s fee to $150, saying the fee was meant to just cover costs, but other councillors voted for $300.

The community committee member will receive a sitting a fee of $50 per meeting in recognition of their time and travel costs.

No more than three councillors will be nominated to the committee, with plans to have at least twice that number of community members appointed. Council will further discuss councillor nominations.

Community members will have an opportunity to have their say on the proposed changes outlined by the committee once developed.

People wishing to be part of the Rating Strategy Steering Committee are encouraged to nominate by September 29.

An information kit including the terms of reference and a nomination form is available from council’s website, council offices at 9 Smith Street, Leongatha, by phoning Faith Paige on 5662 9200 or by emailing council@southgippsland.vic.gov.au

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=22358

Posted by on Aug 29 2017. Filed under Featured, 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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