Ratepayers in the Moorabool Shire may see a 3.5 percent rate increase as Council submits an application to the Essential Service Commission.
A special meeting of council held on Wednesday March 23 saw councillors vote on whether to accept the state government’s 2.5 per cent rate cap, adopt a 4.15 per cent increase or a 3.5 per cent rate increase.
Deputy Mayor Paul Tatchell offered a motion to not proceed with an application for the ESC, which was seconded by councillor Dudzik however voted against by Councillors Spain, Toohey, Sullivan and Edwards.
Alternate motions were then put forward by Cr Dudzik, who asked for a 2.5 percent rate cap, and Cr Spain, who asked for a 4.15 percent rate increase.
All alternate motions were lost.
The meeting then proceeded to a vote on the original recommendation: that Council would submit an application for a rate cap variation of 3.5 percent (1 percent above the cap) for the 2016/17 financial year.
The rate variation would be based on the increase of other charges and fees under a ‘user-pays’ model to be cost-reflective including indirect costs. Examples of increased charges may include water transfer station charges, animal registrations, food premises registrations and septic tank installation fees.
Cr Toohey moved the motion, which was seconded by Cr Sullivan and voted in favour of by Moorabool Shire Mayor Allan Comrie and Councillors Edwards and Dudzik.
The motion was voted against by Councillors Spain and Tatchell.
Cr Tatchell said he was worried for the rate capping policy’s unintended consequences and the affects it would have on the economic development of the region.
“The 3.5 per cent that went through, that I did not vote for, has immediate affects on our commercial industries, our businesses and the farming and agriculture industry. A 3.5 per cent increase for commercial buildings will automatically go to a 8.5 per cent increase and the farming and agriculture will go to a 4.6 per cent increase,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the mining industries will receive a discount of 3.2 per cent. There is disparity; it is not a fair-go rate system when certain sectors have to pay more than others based on a rate cap. When you put differential rates and capping together you have a very poor combination to produce an outcome. This whole fallacy that you can control rates with those two components is misleading at best, it’s damaging to our economy and an illusion in terms of its fairness and equity”.
The three rates options were also put to the community earlier this month through vote cards, a listening post and Have Your Say written responses.
The majority of respondents (53 per cent) at the listening post preferred a 3.5 percent increase, whilst 64 per cent of those who completed the vote cards and 72.9 percent of respondents through Have Your Say preferred the 2.5 per cent rate cap.
Cr Dudzik, who initially seconded a motion by Cr Tatchell for a zero per cent rate increase and put forward a motion for a 2.5 percent cap, yet voted for the 3.5 per cent increase, said in retrospect she would have preferred to have abstained.
“I seconded Cr Tatchell because the principle was in support of the concept of a zero per cent rate rise, I didn’t expect that it would actually succeed. I put up the 2.5 because that was the most popular result from the community consultation when you add the total of all the responses received. I then voted against the 4.15 per cent increase and so the 3.5 per cent increase was the only option left. I would have preferred to have abstained but at the time it did not occur to me”.
Council have until March 31 to lodge a formal application to the ESC for a rate cap variation, which if successful, will be introduced for the 2016-17 financial year, effective from July 1 2016.
First appeared in The Moorabool News, March 29 2016