We need answers to rating anxiety
Anyone following local government politics in regional Victoria is usually more than familiar with debate about the divide between urban and rural ratepayers.
Finding an appropriate medium where a differential system represents what is fair and equitable seems as far off today as it has at any time in the past.
In fact there is probably no greater issue that divides community opinion and that has the ability, as we’ve seen in the region this year, to cripple governance.
The decision on how much farmers compared with everyone else should pay to be part of a municipality has become a quagmire of subjectivity.
This is always going to be the case with a rating system based simply on a comparison of overall property values.
Unfortunately, regional society is a bit more complicated than that and after hearing all the arguments we are left in confusion about everything from what personal wealth means to who has the capacity to pay and what services are available to all ratepayers.
It’s a mess and while our councils follow directions based on a property-value formula, it won’t get any better.
Some of us are starting to understand why municipalities of yesteryear included ‘donut’ patterns, where self-governing rural shires, despite always being short of people and cash, surrounded city municipalities.
In those circumstances, officials had few problems comparing ‘apples with apples’.
What the answer is to solving this annual anxiety, which seems especially acute with the farming community, we don’t know. What we do know is that this repetitive and noisy debate provides ammunition for any future argument to remove the responsibility of rates from local government.
That would mean the State Government have control of municipal rates.
Who would be comfortable with Spring Street control?
Here’s hoping we establish the right answers and maintain at least some control over our own financial destiny.