THE state Opposition wants a rethink of the way council rates are calculated across Victoria, with Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay saying his party will commit to a full review if it wins the coming election.
Raising the matter in Parliament last month, Mr Ramsay said a parliamentary inquiry (of which he was deputy chair) into the sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria’s rural and regional councils found there were “inequitable charges against different demographics of the ratepayer base, principally in the farming community”.
He quoted media reports that recent rate hikes had ranged from 2.25 per cent in the Northern Grampians to 29 per cent in Mount Alexander Shire.
“So there is no doubt that rates and the increase in rates, whether through annual valuations or through the differential rating system – through the system that we have here based on capital improved value – a significant impact on the farming community, and that was borne out by the inquiry that we ran through a joint parliamentary investigative committee.”
In a media release issued later, Mr Ramsay said he wanted a move towards more sustainable methods of funding and grants, including methods that acknowledged the revenue collection bias that city councils had over regional councils.
“Country councils can’t generate income the way big councils do, such as parking meters.”
He said regional councils were larger in size but had fewer ratepayers, leaving them at a squeeze to fund road maintenance and other public assets.
“Program and cost shifting from other tiers of government also needs to be recognised and funded appropriately.
“The time is now for a new funding rating model for local government.”
Last month, the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) launched its election website, which includes “a commitment to implement a fair and equitable rates system that allows regional communities to prosper” as one of its “election asks”.
“We need decent roads, and we need a fair rates system which doesn’t threaten to rate farmers out of existence. We need a long-term energy plan and we need access to proper healthcare and telecommunications,” VFF president David Jochinke said.
The state government is yet to formally respond to the inquiry.