Ratepayers vent

THE issuing of rates last month has stoked the fires of frustration in ratepayers who believe they are not being heard by the beleaguered South Gippsland Shire Council.
A Facebook post by Korumburra resident Cheryl Denham spurred a community meeting at the Korumburra Scout Hall on Monday, October 1 which saw more than 80 people, councillors Meg Edwards and Don Hill, and Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien in attendance.
Organised by an informal group including Marie Gerrard-Staton and Charlie Price, the meeting included a show of hands to vote no confidence in the council and the chief executive Tim Tamlin.
Ms Gerrard-Staton said she called for a show of hands to allow those attending to be able to express their unhappiness with how council was being run.
“It’s unclear for us who is running the council? Is it the chief executive or the councillors?” she said.
“Those attending expressed a lack of transparency in council and dissatisfaction with the costs being paid in rates and the rates strategy.”
Earlier this year the council voted to collect $38.715m from ratepayers and each person contributes to this pool according to a valuation of their property which was made earlier this year.
Previously undertaken every two years, property valuations were legislated by the State Government to be undertaken annually from this year onwards.
Councillor Meg Edwards, who resigned later last week, said she was at the meeting in an effort to listen to the community’s concerns.
“My impression is that the community is concerned about the costs of living and they need to be delivered in the most efficient manner possible,” she said.

“Many people who have moved to the area from higher population and density areas felt that what they paid in rates versus the service is not comparable to where they came from.
“There are a number of avenues to reduce the long term rate burden and many of these are being addressed, such as shared services with other Gippsland councils that the chief executive has been working on over a number of years.”
Mr O’Brien said the meeting reflected the frustration of the community as rates continued to increase and the inability of people to afford to repay them.
“I was there to listen and I made the point to the crowd that it’s not a unique situation,” he said.
“The rates system is an outdated revenue raising system which needs to be looked at because people in rural shires are paying more than metropolitan ratepayers.
“In a way it is operating as a reverse incentive for people to live in country areas. For example, you have someone in a metropolitan council area paying $2000 less for a property of the same value in a regional town.”
Mr Tamlin said ratepayers may object to a valuation.
“The objection can be made in relation to the value of a property or on other grounds specified in the Valuation of Land Act 1960. This objection must be made within two months of the date of the rate notice,” he said.
“Before seeking an objection, it is recommended the ratepayer contacts council’s valuation team to try to resolve their valuation concern directly with the valuer. Further information is available on rates notices.
“Council also maintains a Rates and Charges Hardship Policy which aims to provide rate relief to individual rate and charge payers who are suffering from financial hardship and need assistance. Details of this policy are available on council’s website or council can be contacted for further information.”

Not happy: from left, Marie Gerrard-Staton, Cheryl Denman and Charlie Price aired their rate complaints with other community members at an impromptu community meeting at Korumburra on Monday, October 1.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=26035

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