Rate rise within state cap
Council focused on ‘getting the best value’ for your buck
THE Rural City of Wangaratta will stay within a 2.5 per cent rise on council rates for the 2019/20 financial year.
The State Government last week announced it was setting the 2.5 per cent cap - matching the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for 2019-20 - for all councils in Victoria, as part of its ongoing Fair Go Rates policy.
Councils can apply for a higher cap if they can demonstrate community support and a critical need for spending on services or projects that requires a rate rise above the capped amount.
However, rural city mayor Dean Rees told the Wangaratta Chronicle that council was not looking at making an application, and would stay within the state rate cap for a fourth successive year.
“Councillors have spoken about it and don’t feel it is necessary to seek to exceed the cap,” Cr Rees said, adding that he personally believed in the rate cap.
“It’s already tough enough for a lot of people out there.”
Cr Rees said rate capping had forced councils to budget their money better and be more methodical with management and maintenance of assets and future plans.
“We certainly are looking at getting the best value we can out of what money we have,” he said.
“I know there was a bit of discussion around the $200,000 (over two years) spent on Christmas decorations for the city, but that’s not a lot of money when the investment will last 10 to 15 years and does make a big difference.”
Under the State Government’s mandatory rate cap of 2.25 per cent this financial year, the rural city council collected more than $32 million in rate revenue to help fund its $59m budget, which included a record $38.7m capital works program.
Under its forward projec- tions, council is looking towards raising rate revenue of $34.5m to help fund a $62m budget in 2019/20.
Since the state introduced its rate capping, the rural city has only increased its overall rate revenue by 2.5 per cent in 2016/17 and 2.25 per cent in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.
In the previous decade prior to rate capping, the average rise in council rate revenue was 5.58 per cent.
Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek, said the Fair Go Rates - acting on the recommendations of the Essential Services Commission (ESC) based on the CPI forecast by the Department of Treasury and Finance - was working.
He said an independent report by the ESC released last week found that nearly all Victorian councils complied with the 2018-19 rate cap.
“Fair Go Rates is encouraging councils to improve accountability and transparency, ensuring they are listening to their communities and delivering the services that matter most,” Minister Somyurek said.