Rate bill survival guide
DAY two of the rates fiasco and the comedy of errors continued for the Southern Downs Regional Council, with even one of its own councillors querying his rating category.
Council customer service staff fielded about 300 calls from ratepayers on Wednesday shortly after notices arrived in letterboxes across the region.
Blushes weren’t saved when the local authority announced Australia Post customers were being overcharged due to a mistake in the barcode by externally-sourced printers.
Yesterday, reports emerged of pensioners missing out on discounts as well as Councillor Vic Pennisi questioning whether or not his property was in the right category.
“I believe I am in the incorrect category and there is a formal process to follow for these instances, and I have triggered this process in my case,” Cr Pennisi said.
“IT may or may not be an advantage to me, but I believe either way it needs to happen. I will confirm the per cent as soon as I receive my (official) notice.
“As I understand it we cannot make changes to this year’s model and there may be some deficiencies in the model.”
Cr Pennisi likened the new rating system to “a bit like making one car out of a Holden and a Falcon” saying it was difficult to predict the issues which are now arising.
“What I would encourage people to do is to document and formally lodge their issues, so that as the model gets refined their issues can be considered as part of the process,” he said.
“Without knowing what they are it will be difficult to get the full picture.
“As the mayor has stated there will be winners and losers, I need to understand what the issues are so that we can make informed changes when the review takes place.
“Over time I think we have the basis and the tools to fine tune this into a sustainable and equitable model for the ratepayers of the Southern Downs.”
Demonstrating they are affected too, Crs Ross Bartley and Denise Ingram also shared details of their rate increases with the Daily News.
Cr Bartley’s rate increased by about 30 per cent, with Cr Ingram facing a similar rise.
Despite the possibility of upsetting or even losing customers, Australia Post praised council for their swift response to the bungled barcodes on rate notices.
Due to an error made by the external printers, ratepayers squaring up at post offices were facing an extra zero on their bills.
An Australia Post spokeswoman advised: “Upon identifying there was an issue with the printed barcode, we immediately notified the council about the incorrect amount that would display on screen when a customer was attempting payment”.
“The Southern Downs Regional Council has been very swift in advising ratepayers of the issue and because of this, there has been no impact experienced at the Warwick Post Office,” the spokeswoman said.
“We have ensured all of our outlets have been briefed on the issue and if ratepayers want to pay their bill, we are able to work around the barcode by manually entering the rate notice number.”
Council further advised ratepayers to check they were being charged the amount that appeared on their notices so overpayment did not occur.
“We would like to extend our thanks to the Warwick Post Office for all the help they have given us in trying to ensure people are not overcharged,” the council spokeswoman said.
“If people experience any costs associated with the payment of rate notices at Australia Post, they need to write to us and include a copy of their bank statement showing the charge.”
Meanwhile businesses in Warwick, particularly those stung by State Government land valuations, were rubbing their eyes in disbelief as they perused their rates notices.
Colleen Ryman of City View Motel just took over the business with her husband Henry a couple of days ago. She said it was just a day or so after they signed the deal that they heard about the rate rises.
“The rates are massive – I think ours are about one-third up on what they were last year,” she said.
“I think there should be more payment options and services for those rates. We don’t even get a recycle bin.”
Tilkey co-owner Lyn Barnes was disturbed by her rates, which were more than double last year, but she still blamed the State Government’s unrealistic valuations.
“My biggest issue isn’t with council but with the valuations,” Mrs Barnes said.
“We have a block of prime real estate in Brisbane and they’ve valued this one in Warwick similarly – that’s impossible.
“In saying that, I don’t understand why we are on the same rate in the dollar as Warwick CBD businesses.”
Residential urban: 1.0980 cents in the dollar (min general rate $725)
Residential rural: 0.8260 cents in the dollar (min general rate $725)
Commercial and industrial – Stanthorpe: 1.8870 cents in the dollar (min general rate $725)
Commercial and industrial – Warwick: 0.7747 cents in the dollar (min general rate $725)
Commercial and industrial – rural: 0.8120 cents in the dollar (min general rate $725)