Rate rise within state cap

Coun­cil fo­cused on ‘get­ting the best value’ for your buck

Wangaratta Chronicle - - News - BY JEFF ZEUSCHNER [email protected]­me­dia.com.au

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.

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