Prepare for rates pain: 7000 warned of pending bill shock
WARNING shots have been fired ahead of this year's official council rates notices as thousands of residents brace for increases of more than 10 per cent.
About 7000 ratepayers are expected to be impacted due to changes in State Government -controlled land valuations and general rate category re-classifications.
Pre-empting backlash, the council wrote to residents stating while the council had delivered on its commitment to a zero per cent net revenue increase, "changes in land valuations and general rate categories have impacted on the final rates that properties are levied".
A zero-percent net revenue increase does not mean zero rate rises - just that the overall amount council ends up with is not higher than the previous year.
A full breakdown of rates, taking into account levies and capping, is still to come in official rates notices which are currently being calculated in council headquarters.
Booral resident Darryl Gracey was notified he would likely receive a 20 per cent increase. It equates to about $257 on his bill.
Mr Gracey, who has lived in Hervey Bay for more than four years, told the Chronicle the situation was outrageous.
"We have no kerb and channel, no sewerage, and the street isn't wide enough for two cars," Mr Gracey said.
"And now they want to hit us up with a 20 per cent increase."
But the council claims measures were put in place to regulate the change in rate including introducing a cap so no ratepayer's gross general rate would go up by more than 20 per cent.
"About 53 per cent of properties will see no change or a decrease in their rates," finance councillor Rolf Light said.
"When the valuations were released earlier this year, the council urged landholders to check their valuations, and if they did not agree with them, to challenge them.
"Only landowners can challenge the valuation."
In last year's budget, property owners in Maryborough's CBD were spared a rates increase while others were likely to receive a decrease of up to 30%. This was after a review found ratepayers in the area were being hit with disproportionately higher loading than similar businesses in Hervey Bay.
The Chronicle understands businesses in the Hervey Bay CBD, including the Pialba Place Shopping Centre, now face a hike of 33 per cent.
But Cr Light insisted the two were not linked, saying "there is no truth in the rumour that the changes were introduced to make up for the council lowering the rates in the Maryborough CBD last year".
Instead, he said that since amalgamation Council had "followed a policy of rates equalisation so properties in the same category (of the same unimproved land value, urban or non-urban), paid the same rate across the region.
In this year's budget, new rating categories for urban and non-urban properties were introduced with rates for non-urban areas set at 80 per cent of the general rate.
But councillor Stuart Taylor raised concerns about its impact on residents living in the Fraser Coast's urban areas.
He was one of two councillors to vote against the budget alongside councillor Daniel Sanderson. At the time, he claimed the striking of the balance didn't make the budget fair due to the comparative rates raised in areas like Division 9.
Yesterday, Cr Taylor told the Chronicle it was the rates model the council was using and he had to respect the process.
"I appreciate that some residents are hurting, and we've got to try and work through that," he said.
"We look at it from how much money we collect as an entire region, that hasn't increased, but how we've cut the pizza has changed considerably.
"Some people are getting bigger slices, others are getting smaller, but it's the same bucket of money."