Questioning the ‘fairness’

June 27, 2017

The fairness of the contentious municipal charge was again questioned when City of Greater Shepparton Council adopted the 2017-18 council budget and rating strategy last week.

Greater Shepparton City Council’s municipal charge is not perfect.

But if fairness is the goal in recovering costs across the municipality, those opposed to it should weigh up the alternatives.

The situation facing regional councils at the moment, with cost shifting measures and the ever more imposing spectre of rate capping should also be considered.

While adopting the 2017-18 council budget and rating strategy last week, the fairness of the contentious municipal charge was again questioned.

The council describes the municipal charge as a fixed charge all rateable properties incur regardless of value or property type.

The municipal charge distributes rates in a way council considers to be ‘‘fairer’’ and ‘‘more equitable’’ and ensures ‘‘that owners of low valued properties contribute a reasonable amount to meeting the unavoidable costs of local government’’.

For the 2017-18 financial year, that cost has crept up to $262, with the council expecting $7.8million from the charge during the financial year.

Cr Fern Summer questioned the fairness of a system that charges the same such cost to all ratepayers, regardless of the value of their properties, labelling it a ‘‘discount for the top end of town that everyone pays for’’.

While this is an understandable concern, the fairness of the alternative, presumably higher rates, should also be considered.

Whatever the level of ‘‘fairness’’ determined, the reality remains if the municipal charge was to disappear, the council would be left with an almost $8million hole it would need to find some other way to fill.

And regardless of the cost breakdown, the big question remains, whether ratepayers — whatever they are paying through rates or through any municipal charge — are getting the value for money they would expect from their council?

We agree it remains astonishing not one submission was received to the rating strategy.

Given how divisive council rates can prove, it’s difficult to believe no views existed to assist the council with shaping this important strategy.

As councillors have suggested, perhaps a more accessible approach is needed to encourage views on this to be canvassed in future.

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