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Residents fed up with rate rises

SGSC logoTHE heat is starting to build on the South Gippsland Shire with residents angry over hefty gains in rates in the last two years.
Rates and the upcoming budget are current hot topics and the Shire is not the flavour of the month either, rating poorly in the recent customer satisfaction survey.
After recently seeing his latest rate bill Fish Creek’s Steven George said enough is enough.
Mr George is calling for ratepayers to confront the council after he found he had been subjected to a rate rise of more than 50 per cent in the past two years.
Mr George has a small hobby farm of 36 acres with a cattle run. Part of the increase is because it is under 20 hectares and it is not intensely farmed.
Council determined properties where primary production and associated improvements are secondary to the value of the residential home site and associated residential improvements should not be classified as farm land for differential rating purposes.
Farming is considered a key industry and council provide incentives to encourage farmers by moderating the rate impact. Farming land is rated less in the dollar than residential land.
The rating cycle has seen Mr George’s rates go up in excess of $1100. The next rating cycle will increase his rates by $320.
“I’m very angry,” he said. “I can’t see how they can justify it.”
Mr George said this rise is not uncommon and it’s over the top.
“Everybody is in the same boat,” he said. “There is a lot of anger because the council isn’t listening to the people.”
Mr George said council isn’t making the hard decisions and believed, for one, the community grants program should be scrapped.
“We just can’t afford to hand this money out; what happened to the fundraisers and raffles the clubs used to run. These groups should raise the money themselves for better facilities.”
“While it sounds good and makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy we just can’t afford it due to rate pressures.”
Mr George has taken his case to council, state government and to an ombudsman. He has been appealing to them since the last rate cycle and has been dismissed a number of times. He feels as if no one will help.
“The ratepayers are being hung out to dry,” he said.
“The council’s main focus should have an emphasis on decreasing the rates.”
Council on the other hand believes real positives have come from the change in the rating system with some having enjoyed decreased rates. However, many are still finding they are battling the bills.
Council’s community satisfaction levels have hit a low as it has fallen below the large rural shire average. It is way below the average in community consultation and advocacy. It ranked best in community service, but its score of 60 still fell short of the average. Cr Mohya Davies said although council is slightly behind, it is making the effort to increase satisfaction.
Council’s OurSay site which invites ratepayer input on council decisions and the budget is expected to be inundated. The online program will run until Friday, November 14. It can be accessed by visiting www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au
Cr Andrew McEwen said something needs to be done as council’s figures have been below the average for the past six years.
Cr Don Hill suggested removing unnecessary expenditure items from the 15 year budget to help lower rates.
“We need to identify the other items in the 15 year budget that shouldn’t be there,” Cr Hill said.
“They should be approved by council first.”
Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett acknowledged Cr Hill’s intentions to decrease rates by firmly monitoring unapproved expenditure; however he was unsupportive of the move.
“It’s well intended but it complicates the deliberation of the budget,” Cr Fawcett said.
Cr Andrew McEwen said the debate was about proper governance.
“The reality is there will be needs in the future,” Cr McEwen said.
“The dilemma we’ve got is we have $34 million in unallocated expenditure in the plan, which will result in a seven per cent rate rise. We will be raising rates with nothing to spend it on. It is critical we don’t add what builds rates unless there is a case for it.”

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=12572

Posted by on Oct 30 2014. 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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