Rate rise shock
SOUTH Gippsland residents are facing a 7.5 per cent rate increase for the next financial year.
The increase is to cover a $4.61m superannuation funding call and reduced grant allocation from the Victorian Grants Commission.
Ratepayers are outraged by the hike.
President of the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry Darryl McGannon said it will be very tough for small businesses.
“It’s disappointing I suppose that the rate rise could be up by 7.5 per cent,” he said.
“I’m interested to see where the increase is going to be spent I suppose, if it’s just purely to cover debt that’s disappointing.”
The business man said he struggles to see the superannuation debt as an excuse.
“I don’t understand how they got themselves into that situation,” he said.
“Every business has a superannuation which we have to monitor regularly so I still don’t understand how they got themselves in that predicament.
“That should be budgeted for anyway.”
Mr McGannon said this will challenge small businesses.
“Business is a big enough struggle as it is and putting rates up is not going to help that’s for sure,” he said.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we knew what we were going to get in return but if it’s just to cover increased cost…that 7.5 per cent is not easy for some businesses or families to handle either.”
A majority of councillors are calling for the community to make the decision about which services can be cut to lower the rates.
“We emphasise that this is a draft budget only, we encourage comment from the community,” Mayor Kieran Kennedy said.
“I would love to see a record number of submissions on this to affect the budget if they can in any way shape or form.”
Mr McGannon is annoyed by the call for community involvement.
“If they are asking us then why do we need them for?” he said.
“They shouldn’t be asking us where they can cut back. I run a business; I don’t ask my customer where I can cut back.”
When asked what he thought could be cut back Mr McGannon replied: “It’s hard to know what to cut back on because I don’t sit there and study the budget.”
“It makes it difficult for the average person to comment on that.”
As soon as she heard the Shire is considering a 7.5 per cent rate increase, a beef farmer in the Tarwin area Marj Pearson quickly contacted The Star.
She said people working in rural industry really had “their backs to the wall.”
“The Shire slugs the farmers with another rate hike and what extra services do we get? We’re lucky to have our road graded once a year and that’s about it,” Mrs Pearson said.
She estimates that a 7.5 per cent increase would add approximately another $2,000 to the rates bill.
“The beef industry is not good, our dollar is too high and with limited exports to Indonesia, the carbon tax and the whole works, it’s just not worth it.”
“The Shire needs to realise we have just been through a really dry spell and you should see the truckloads of hay coming into the area, there would be hundreds of thousands of dollars going into keeping the region’s cattle fed.”
Community input sought
Councillor Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks is calling for community involvement and defended the high rate increase.
“We are in a really tight spot and I think we will need to make cuts to services in the next few years, I don’t know where, but residents will need to tell us where cuts can be made,” he said.
“It’s not good enough to just say ‘cut staff’ because if you cut staff, you cut services.
“This 7.5 per cent is a once off because this particular year we had the superannuation people stick their hand out and ask for $4.6m by July 1. This is about nine per cent of our total budget.
“Imagine a house hold when a person comes along and says ‘nine per cent of your budget please’. You would cope with great difficulty.”
Councillor Don Hill is against the rate rise and the draft budget document.
“This budget is really the previous council’s work,” he said.
“It is an ongoing document and I can right now say that if it was voted on today it would be voted down.”
“I’m voting against this budget, I am not suggesting that after the consultation period it will get voted down but what I am saying is that it would get voted down today if it came to that.”
Councillor Bob Newton said that there has been a large rise in the cost of services but couldn’t agree with this rate hike.
“I could’ve accepted five percent but I’m not going to accept 7.5,” he said.
“A lot of people are out there hurting. Its fine to say it’s only one dollar or that but at the end of the day it’s the people who are paying $2500 for their house and little block of land that they have worked their whole life to get who get hit.
“Poor business owner get hit twice too paying rates on their business and their home.”
Councillor Andrew McEwan also said: “I would find extreme difficulty in voting for a 7.5 per cent rate rise, something has to be done somewhere to cut the rates down.”
Councillor Jeannette Harding has faith that the people of South Gippsland will be able to cope with the rise.
“Yes some people are going to hurt but the people in this shire are not fools,” she said.
“They run their own business and do their own budgets in households; we are not spending money willy-nilly. We are spending money on services.”
Councillor Mohya Davies said: “We have to understand that if we didn’t strike this rate it would result in significant service reduction,” she said.
“None of us a comfortable with borrowing the $4 million and none of us are comfortable with the 7.5 per cent rate increase.
“We are interested in engaging with the community about where and how we might re-jig things or service delivery changes that result in the least costs to council.”
You can have your say! Crs Andrew McEwan and Cr Don Hill have initiated their own survey of ratepayers to find out what they think of the proposed rate rise. You can find the survey at the following site: www.surveymonkey.com/s/BCSG7CP
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