‘Winners and losers’ in 6-2 budget vote to increase rates
RATEPAYERS face an average increase of $50 in their annual rates bills after Toodyay shire councillors voted 6-2 last month to adopt a 2.5 per cent increase.
“There will be some winners and some losers,” shire audit committee chair Rob Welburn told a special council meeting.
The rates increase was moved by Cr Eric Twine, seconded by Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty and opposed by Crs Bill Manning and Ben Bell.read more
THE TOTAL amount of money raised from rates increases by 2.5 per cent to $6.54 million, with a budget surplus of $140,435.
Rises and falls in valuations mean that average rates in the dollar will increase by more than seven per cent for town residential properties while commercial properties will fall by an average of more than 10 per cent.
This is because house prices have fallen and average commercial values have risen.
Rural residential rates on bush ‘lifestyle’ blocks will increase by nearly five per cent while the average rise for broad-acre farms is 0.46 per cent.
Landgate told The Herald that broadacre farm valuations had increased “very slightly” in the eastern part of the shire, while the small farm market had “softened”, resulting in “some value reductions”.
The average for all types of rural farm land was a 0.04 per cent valuation increase.
Cr Welburn said Toodyay commercial values had risen and residential values fallen.
This required some rates in the dollar to rise and others to fall in order to maintain the proportion of shire rates revenue paid by each type of land use (see chart below).
“Rates could be higher but we are trying to keep it at a suitable level,” he said.
“The 2.5 per cent increase is an average across all rates but individual properties will vary – there will be some winners and some losers.
“I think keeping it down to 2.5 per cent is a pretty good effort.”
Cr Manning said he opposed the increase.
“Last year we finished with a substantial surplus,’ he said.
“The council’s cost of running its business has risen by about 1.8 per cent – a 2.5 per cent rates rise is a long way above that.
“We have an ageing population with a significant proportion that relies on their superannuation savings in retirement and interest rates are low – they’re feeling the pinch.
“I know it’s probably small bikkies for some ratepayers but it’s a lot of money for others.
Cr Bell said there was a disconnection between what families in the community were feeling and how the council raised rates.
“The people I represent are doing it tough.
“Property prices are falling but rates keep going up.
“The council should acknowledge that others are struggling and we should reflect that hardship in how we raise rates.
“We asked last time for a pause but it was denied – rates keep going up”.
Cr Bell asked what would happen if mortgage costs kept rising, property prices kept falling and the shire kept charging higher rates?
Shire CEO Stan Scott replied: “If you want to debate the increases, knock yourself out.”
Cr Eric Twine said if the shire wasn’t building a new public swimming pool he’d have no trouble dropping back to a zero or one per cent rate increase.
“The average increase for everyone is about $50,” he said.
“If the local government costs index is 1.8 per cent, you’re not putting anything away for the future if anything goes wrong.”
The rates motion was carried 6-2 with Crs Manning and Bell against.