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Strathbogie Shire Council admits farmers will pay more if municipal charge is removed

By Rodney Woods

Strathbogie Shire Council has confirmed the VFF's concerns that farmers will pay more than other ratepayers if the municipal charge is removed, as set out in the council's draft budget for 2020-21.

VFF president David Jochinke said the group was "deeply concerned" by the council's proposal to abolish its municipal charge, which will mean rates will be based on property values.

“It's not fair, it's not equitable,” he said.

“The council hasn't justified it and they need to take another look at it.

“This proposal would see the rates paid on the average farm assessment increase by 8.24 per cent whilst the rates paid on the average residential assessment will decrease by 0.36 per cent.”

Mr Jochinke said councils had been allowed to levy a municipal charge since 1993 in order to make the rating system more equitable for all ratepayers.

“The municipal charge acts as a mechanism to dampen the effects of substantial changes in property valuations between years,” he said.

“It is also consistent with the community idea that all properties should make a contribution towards a council’s cost structure.

“Additionally, the municipal charge adheres to the benefit principle where increasing property values do not necessarily result in the increased use of or benefit from services.”

Strathbogie Shire Council Mayor Amanda McClaren admitted that by removing the municipal charge, farmers would have to pay more.

“Over the past two years, council has reduced the farm rate differential from 85 per cent of the residential rate to 80 per cent,” Cr McClaren said.

“To put this simply it means we've been increasing the discount for our farming community.

“At the same time, we have been reducing the fixed municipal charge and the 2020-21 draft budget flags the removal of this charge, meaning rates will be determined by a property's valuation.

“The combination of changes to the rates differential and municipal charge has led to a small shift in rates from residential to farm.

“During the same time period, values have increased by more for farms than residential.

“In total, since 2017-18 the valuer-general’s valuations has increased residential values by 26 per cent and farm values by 31 per cent.”

Strathbogie Shire Council is offering ratepayers the opportunity to receive their past and future rate notices via email.

To sign up for electronic rate notices, visit: strathbogie.enotices.com.au or phone 1800 065 993.