Rates “rip-off” a disgrace

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Rates “rip-off” a disgrace

FORMER mayor of Borough of Wonthaggi Alan Brown said it’s time the current Bass Coast Shire Council stopped ripping off ratepayers.

“Bass Coast Shire Council has been crippling ratepayers with vastly excessive rate rises over the past decade,” Mr Brown said.

“People on low incomes are simply not able to make ends meet and in many cases businesses are closing up.”

Mr Brown dubbed the current council the worst the district has seen in 50 years.

He said developers had left the shire frustrated by council’s decisions, council had made poor decisions surrounding the Inverloch dogs on beaches issue and had failed to adequately service Phillip Island. The recent community satisfaction survey, released last year, scored council’s performance well below the state average.

Former chairman of council’s audit committee John Swarbrick said the level of council rate increases of recent years was irresponsible.

“This year’s 6.9 per cent increase in rates and charges is about three times present inflation,” Mr Swarbrick said.

“This year’s increase in staff wages is dramatic. Employee costs this year has risen by a whopping 8.9 per cent when most other employees in Victoria have been struggling to get three per cent.”

Mr Brown said the 8.9 per cent increase in employee costs would push overall wages to $2.305 million.

“Residents and ratepayers would be staggered to learn the wages bill for Bass Coast Shire staff has increased by far more than $2 million this financial year,” Mr Brown said.

“I’d put it in the realm of scandalous.”

The Bass Coast Shire Council Senior Officers Register showed four senior officers were paid over $200,000, with one officer earning in excess of $290,000.

Council said senior officer salaries are determined via a benchmark across the local government sector, based on like sized councils and the individual’s skill and qualifications.

According to Mr Brown, the average cost per employee jumped to $85,000 this financial year and the next three years would see the cost increase to $104,773.

However, he believed the jump would be the fault of the council, not its employees.

“No one would deny employees a fair increase of around inflation but for the council to grant such dramatic increases year after year of up to three times inflation is incredible,” Mr Brown said.

“It is no way the fault of the general workforce within the shire. I have nothing but admiration for the rank and file workforce within Bass Coast Council. They are excellent employees.”

Regardless, Mr Brown believed the heavy bank balance of council would leave ratepayers at a loss, particularly retirees and farmers.

“Many pensioners and self funded retirees are finding things very tough financially with massive rises in rates over the recent years,” Mr Brown said.

“I particularly feel for our pensioners and aged. Being in the latter years they deserve to receive support from our community not undue hardship. Over recent years they have also been hit with large rises in utility and other costs, and many are really struggling to make ends meet.”

Farmers have pleaded for a rate differential charge for several years. Council has claimed to genuinely consider the request but has not made changes.

“The council could have easily introduced a differential charge if they wished,” Mr Brown said.

“Farmers represent 3.6 per cent of rateable properties in Bass Coast yet pay 7.5 per cent of all rates and charges. Many pay more than $10,000 each year which is making their farms not viable financially. Council can’t find a cent for farmers but can find $2.3 million for their pay packs.”

Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Paul Buckley said the value of farm properties represented 10 per cent of the value of all properties.

“Farmers have been actively advocating for a farm differential rate in Bass Coast for the last few years. In response to this, council has engaged with the farming sector to understand their concerns,” Mr Buckley said.

“One of the actions taken by council was to establish a Rural Engagement Group in 2013 to assist in understanding issues facing the farming community. The proposal (for a differential rate) will be included in the discussion paper relating to rating strategy.”

Mr Brown predicted a clean sweep in the next council election.

“The financial management of this council is beyond the pale and I have no confidence they will turn it around,” he said.

“I was aghast to hear the wages had gone up at the ratepayers’ expense. They aren’t getting their value for money. If council strike a rate exceeding three per cent, the community should mobilise. It’s not sustainable to keep raising rates and charges.”

Mr Brown said he would not be fielding a team of candidates at the next council election.

Overcharged: from left, former chairman of Bass Coast Shire Council’s audit committee John Swarbrick and former Borough of Wonthaggi mayor Alan Brown believe the community should mobilise if council strikes a rate rise exceeding three per cent in the next budget.

Overcharged: from left, former chairman of Bass Coast Shire Council’s audit committee John Swarbrick and former Borough of Wonthaggi mayor Alan Brown believe the community should mobilise if council strikes a rate rise exceeding three per cent in the next budget.

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Posted by on Mar 3 2015. 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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