Strathbogie farmers facing rate increase

By Jamie Salter

A Gooram beef producer says he could pay twice as much in Strathbogie Shire rates after councillors agreed to remove the municipal charge in council's 2020-21 budget.

Charlie Brydon said his rates could be twice as high compared to recent years because of the removal of the $133 charge, which means council rates will now be solely based on land value.

Councillors unanimously supported a zero per cent increase in rates in the 2020-21 budget and reduced the farm rate differential from 85 per cent of the residential rate to 80 per cent.

“Because we suddenly had a great deal of rain, interest in farming properties rose in the last couple of months and we're looking at a statewide rise in rates by eight per cent,” Mr Brydon said.

He said the racehorse industry had also been paying more for prime land in the Strathbogie Shire, which had factored into the rates of the region.

Strathbogie Shire Mayor Amanda McClaren said the budget had been developed to support community recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We received more than 91 submissions to the 2020-21 Draft Budget and we are grateful for all the community feedback,” Cr McClaren said.

Cr McClaren said outcomes for individual properties would still vary, depending on how that property’s independent valuation had changed.

This year's property valuations were undertaken by the State Valuer General in January.

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.

The VFF voiced concerns about the change in June, saying it would lead to an average rate increase of 8.24 per cent.

“The municipal charge acts as a mechanism to dampen the effects of substantial changes in property valuations between years,” VFF president David Jochinke said on June 12.

“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.”

Mr Brydon said the change comes off the back of a difficult 12 months.

He reduced his herd as he struggled to afford feed.

“The reality is that farmers have been hit with a fairly significant rate increase and after four years of drought, we're struggling to make a living,” he said.

“Bigger farmers with a lot of capital behind them can afford to expand and a lot of smaller farmers are being forced out of farming — which is tough because a lot of people live for farming.

“One positive would be if you need to borrow money to pay rates, interest rates are so low, so you have a chance to do that.

“If farmers want to take it on, you are able to appeal the evaluation that has been made — it's a fairly complicated procedure, but you can win.”