Councillors face music over rates
FAR from the fiery preamble splashed across front pages, last night’s business rates meeting at the Warwick Town Hall was a fairly tranquil event.
With rates notices still to hit letterboxes in mid-August, whether the business community hasn’t yet realised the full impact of rises or whether they were just satisfied with the Southern Downs Regional Council panel’s answers, it was a cordial meeting.
As a group of around 30 business big-hitters, including Warwick Chamber of Commerce president David Littleproud, businessmen Graeme and Matthew Collins and David Cassels, Rose City Shoppingworld manager Jason Gard and Warwick Credit Union’s Lewis Von Steiglitz, gathered to meet councillors and senior officers, the Daily News received a snapshot of the full extent of increases in the Commercial and Industrial category.
Around 70 Warwick CBD businesses will experience a near 60 per cent increase in their rates this year, according to information provided to the Daily News by council.
Meanwhile at the meeting, after a heated week of discourse through the media between Mayor Ron Bellingham and Mr Littleproud, the civic leader attempted to clear the air at last night’s meeting.
He thanked the rating advisory group, which was made up of community members selected by council to assist in formulating the ratings categories.
“There has been some discussion in the local media on that particular issue and to those people that came and offered their assistance, council is appreciative of that,” Cr Bellingham said.
“It was never the intention for them to share any portion of the blame for what had to happen.
“I’d mention particularly David Littleproud as president of the Chamber of Commerce.
“If there’s any misunderstanding there shouldn’t be — we asked for community input and assistance and this group contributed well to that process.”
In his preamble Cr Bellingham spoke of the difficulty council had experienced in amalgamating the two former shire rating systems into one, especially as Stanthorpe hadn’t been valued since 2004.
He talked of the dissent in Stanthorpe last year because the business rate in the dollar in Warwick was significantly lower than that of Stanthorpe – even though many Stanthorpe businesses were given a reduction in rates.
Representatives from the rural business community lamented the way they are rated, recognising they receive little in the way of services.
Rod Petersen spoke of how single-person businesses with large blocks of land were being slapped with huge rates’ notices, which made a percentage increase even more substantial because of the value of their land, which didn’t necessarily reflect their income.
The issue of council staffing numbers was raised but jobs are not in the firing line, according to council chief executive Rod Ferguson, who said while the most efficient way to run things would be to do it from once office, there was no immediate plan to shut the Stanthorpe office.
A similar meeting to brief businesses and open to the general public will be held in Stanthorpe next Wednesday night.
Council representatives said for the local authority to cut its budget, the community would need to identify where it was willing to give up services.
What council services would you be willing to give up? Did you attend last night’s meeting? Email your thoughts and comments to email@example.com
In the Commercial & Industrial CBD category, the largest reduction in rates (45%) was for a Stanthorpe property which also received an 11.5% reduction in its valuation.
The majority of CBD properties in Stanthorpe received a reduction in their valuations.
The largest increase in rates in the CBD category was 57% for a Warwick property which was the case for approximately 70 Warwick CBD properties – a direct result of the increase in the rate-in-the-dollar, not valuation increases.