BAW Baw Shire councillors have adopted their 2013-14 budget, which will see a 5.2 per cent rate rise for all property types.
The budget provided to councillors by council officers had suggested a 5.2 per cent residential and farm rates rise and a 6.8 per cent commercial and industrial rates rise.
At last week’s council meeting, councillor Joe Gauci moved a motion to reduce the commercial and industrial rate rise.
“It reduces the rate increase for commercial and industrial categories from 6.8 per cent to 5.2 per cent, in line with other rate categories,thereby decreasing the total rates and charges income for the 2013/14 budget by $55,063,” Cr Gauci said.
“I truly believe as an individual and also a councillor the budget is… responsible.”
Despite the vote to adopt the amended budget being unanimous, Drouin ward councillor Tricia Jones expressed concern about the rise.
“I would have much preferred to not have a rate rise at all or have reduced it (rates) even further,” Cr Jones said.
“We have little choice but to raise funds from our ratepayers.”
Mayor Murray Cook said in a media release the budget would return a surplus.
“The budget represents a surplus for the year of $15.635 million,” Cr Cook said.
“Once the capital grants and contributed assets are removed, the underlying surplus is a modest $14,000.”
The 2012-13 budget had forecast a 6.9 per cent rates increase in the 2013-14 budget.
Changes to payment options
The budget will also see changes to the payment options available to ratepayers, most notably the dumping of the February (2014) lump sum payment option in favour of the 30 September (2013) option.
Cr Cook said the move, which will see rates still unpaid after 30 September paid in quarterly instalments, made sense.
“From the time that the Victorian Government legislated the quarterly rates instalment payment option it seemed sensible to adopt that and abandon the February lump sum payment option,” Cr Cook said.
“However, those who choose to pay the lump sum by 30 September will still be in the running for the early-bird prize of $1000.
“This has been recommended as smaller amounts may be easier to pay for ratepayers, and is a familiar payment method similar to that of paying utility bills.
“Quarterly payments also assist the Council to predict and monitor its cash flow.”
Councillor Mikaela Power said residents who may have difficulties paying rates should contact the council.
“I just wanted to make it really clear that if people are having difficulties with that change in rates, they should contact council and make a payment arrangement,” Cr Power said.
The state government’s revamped Fire Services Levy will also appear on rates notices this year.
“The Fire Services Property Levy will be listed as a separate item on the rates notice: the Council rates and charges will be totaled, then the Fire Services Property Levy will be added to give ratepayers the overall amount that is due,” Cr Cook said.
“In this way it will be quite clear how much money is going straight to the Victorian Government.”
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