Winners and losers in rates rise

THERE will be winners and losers in coming weeks when the results of the rates lotto are announced and bills land in letterboxes.

While some will face crippling rate rises in what councillors describe as “the toughest budget yet”, quite unbelievably some will see their rates reduced.

The fallout comes as Southern Downs Regional Council struggles with its new regional differential rating system.

Behind closed doors council staff and our elected representatives have been grappling for months with figures that simply didn’t add up and, despite the painful debate, the budget still came close to being rejected by at least one councillor, the Daily News understands.

Balancing up the commercial and industrial properties in Southern Downs major centres provided the biggest headache and council number crunchers could not find a way to put Stanthorpe and Warwick businesses into one category.

Earlier in the year the State Government’s unimproved land valuations pushed land values, particularly in Stanthorpe, through the roof.

CBD businesses in the Granite Belt were last year rated at 7.48 cents in the dollar and the council had to significantly reduce this figure to stop rates bills going up in some cases 300 per cent in line with their valuations.

In 2010/11 commercial and industrial properties in Stanthorpe will be rated at 1.8870 cents in the dollar, which may spell a significant reduction for some, while others will still feel the force of their valuation increases.

The Warwick rate was set lower at 0.7747 cents in the dollar, but this will still lead to a rates rise for many.

It is understood the two had to be separated to avoid Stanthorpe being significantly under-rated.

“By separating the commercial/industrial category in two, we were able to smooth out some of these massive variations,” Cr Bellingham said.

He added the council’s intention was to bring these two categories into line over the next few years.

There were murmurs that previous budget rebel, Cr Ross Bartley, was going to reject this year’s offering, however at yesterday’s meeting he toed the council line.

As the budget was moved by Cr Peter Blundell and Cr Neil Meiklejohn, Cr Bartley still admitted to having difficulty accepting the budget.

“In this current economic climate, I find it morally difficult to deal with the fact that some people will have a reduction in rates and others will pay the price of this,” Cr Bartley said.

“However, I need to show some solidarity with my fellow councillors.

“Sitting down looking at it all last night, I realised it’s the nature of the beast we are dealing with. With the relaxation of the discount period going to 60 days, I found it easier to accept and I will support my fellow councillors.”

Read more...

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