No rate rush as ‘everyone will be affected’ by new system

By Olivia Duffey

A change to the rating system for local properties will not be rushed, according to Edward River Council.

Council must implement a new structure soon to replace two separate structures used by the former Deniliquin and Conargo Shire Councils prior to their merger in 2016 as outlined in legislation.

However, instead of trying to reach its July 1, 2020 deadline, agreed upon at its December meeting, council has supported a 2021 implementation date.

The decision to push back this Rates Harmonisation Project by a year has been well received by community members concerned the process was being rushed, according to Mayor Norm Brennan.

“This is the better option for the community,” Cr Brennan said.

“As we continued working to make this happen, quite a few councillors became concerned the process was being rushed and there was not enough time to get the message out.

“It was a very tight decision to make because the staff thought they could get there.

“But we now have the opportunity to address questions and give information using 2019 land revaluation values.

“We will still undertake consultation and further work on the Rates Harmonisation model this year so that we have a preferred model ready for implementation at July 1, 2021. Community consultation is likely to take place in May and June this year.’’ 

Cr Brennan said ratepayers should get their new valuation slips in late March or early April, which he believes will create questions.

“I can already see there will be a lot of questions asked and we don’t want to rush consultations; we need to be thorough so everyone can get their head around the concept,” he said.

“There will be a number of sessions held to provide information through a variety of mediums, and council staff and consultants will be available to explain things as well.

“And I would like to reiterate that there are no stupid questions. People have concerns and often if they are unaddressed, they can be damaging.”

Cr Brennan said there are several key points about the process that he wants people to understand.

“There are those who are going to see rate increases and there will be some reductions because of how the previous rates that we have been stuck with were determined,” he said.

“Everyone is going to be affected one way or another, but we want people to know the total amount we collect does not change.

“Another thing we want people to understand is that just because the value of your land went up it does not mean your rates go up by an equivalent percentage; for example an 80 per cent valuation increase does not mean an 80 per cent rate increase.

“I believe this information is important to get out because everyone who has a property gets a rate.”

The former 21 individual sub-categories have been replaced with just six in the draft structure council considered in December, with all farmland rated the same with an ad valorem rate of $0.681462.

There are three residential categories — rural, town and ordinary (all non-rural rated properties outside the Deniliquin township) — and business rates are separated between town and ordinary.

“With the change in timeframe we will further consider this model and may well have a different preferred model when we undertake community consultation. Whatever the model, a key focus for council is ensuring we achieve a more equitable rating system,’’ Cr Brennan said.

“We are keen to work with the community to make sure we have a smooth transition that everyone understands.”