Opinion

Rating mention yet again

By Shepparton News

Local councils receive plenty of stick for being the collectors of rates.

It’s an unglamorous job that garners plenty of critics and not many fans.

In recent years, perhaps, the level of criticism around rates has somewhat subsided, in part because of new limits on how aggressively councils can raise rate charges from year to year.

In the past couple of years, Greater Shepparton has made some changes to the way it rates properties.

The most dramatic of these has been the common sense streamlining of rate categories from about a dozen different rates types to just four.

Another change which may have caught some ratepayers off guard when it came into effect was the removal of a February lump sum payment option.

While the question can rightly be asked, why remove the number of options available to those paying rates, rather than open up more?

The thinking here is around ensuring that the council can better identify properties having difficulty paying rates earlier than previously.

This, it says, would then prevent time and money being spent following up payments, instead working with the ratepayer to find a solution.

This is all reasonable.

But at the expense of this is those who have been paying rates in a lump sum in February for however long, have been happy with this system and don’t wish to see it change.

Where it gets tricky is in considering the fact that plenty of seasonal businesses see income flow across the months of December and January. But in the newer rates structure, they are asked to either pay all of their rates earlier — for some, a considerable sum of money — or pay in more regular instalments.

As frustrating as it must be for many business owners to consider adapting to these changes made by the council, it is pleasing the council is extending an olive branch of sorts in asking anyone not happy with what is being proposed to make contact.

While not endorsing a return of the February lump sum as a formal proposed option, it is heartening that there appears to be a level of wriggle room here for those unhappy with the payment options being suggested.

Going forward, the council appears to be steadfast in its decision to move towards more regular, incremental rate payments.

There appears to be solid reasoning behind this.

But it also begs the question of whether there might be a way of ensuring those who want to pay their rates in full in February can do so.

If councillors hear this question often enough, there is every chance it would be looked at.