Rate hike hits farmers

By Country News

A group of farmers have seen red at their recent Greater Shepparton City Council rates notices, which have seen significant jumps as a result of rising farm values.

The increased valuations have not been welcome news for the farmers, who have expressed frustration that their rates have substantially increased despite rate capping.

Rate capping, which was introduced in 2016, ensures that Victorian councils cannot increase their total revenue received through rates by more than 2.25 per cent for the current financial year.

Dookie’s Steven Ludeman, who owns a 2200ha broadacre cropping property at Dookie straddling Moira Shire and City of Greater Shepparton, said his property had seen varied valuation increases.

While some sections of his farm had risen in value by 18 per cent, other sections have increased by 53 per cent.

The sections of his farm that lay in Moira Shire have seen an average increase of about eight per cent.

‘‘They’ve jumped on average 31 per cent across the property,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s ridiculous ... it’s an unfair rating system and we need to change how it’s worked out. We get zero more for our rates dollar.

‘‘It should be a user pays system, but we’re bearing the brunt. And why should we pay $60000 to $70000 for rates when we get nothing more for it and those in town are only paying three or four thousand?’’

It was view echoed by Dookie and District Development Forum chair Jeanette Ryan who owns 364ha with her husband Michael.

‘‘Farmers are absolutely stunned at the current rise in council rates for 2018,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s unacceptable and we’re seeking council assistance in working out a way to improve the issue. It’s an insult.’’

Ultimately, Ms Ryan said there was a general feeling among farmers that the rises weren’t equitable.

‘‘It’s unfortunate the household rates have been held to a minimum while ours have risen astronomically,’’ she said.

Council finance manager Matt Jarvis said the department believed a recent re-valuation underpinned increases, with a lot of councils seeing farming values increasing more than residential and commercial properties.

‘‘These valuations tend to reflect the market prices ... But because the rating system is underpinned by ... value, that’s one of the key drivers to determining how much property owners pay in rates,’’ he said.

He suggested an imminent shift to more regular property valuations may ensure those increases were smoothed out.

And, he wanted to push the message that if landowners had concerns about their rate notice, that they could contact the council.

Liberal candidate for Shepparton Cheryl Hammer organised a meeting between the farmers and Shadow Local Government Minister David Morris at Dookie about the issue.

‘‘Farmland seems to be rising in value relatively much faster than values in the towns and it’s pushing the burden across,’’ Mr Morris said.

‘‘The current system doesn’t encourage equity to be a high priority.’’