Here is our opinion presented on the public hearing related to the Council's proposal for adoption of Differential Rating System - January 2012:
As I believe that the Council’s decision to consider changing the rating system is extremely important to our community, I am using this opportunity to comment on the reasoning provided by Council for adopting a differential rating strategy (reference to page 1 of the “Proposal for a differential rates system”):
- Bringing our rates in line with the majority of SA Councils– This is not a valid reason; other Councils might have had legitimate reasons, based on alternative agendas, planning, visions or circumstances, for deciding on their current rates. The council should justify their decision based on data gained from appropriate studies and rate payer consultations. Rate structures that are fair and equitable in one Council area may not necessarily be fair and realistic for rate payers of another Council area. Any Council, who changes the rate structures using the excuse that it must be the correct decision because other councils are adopting the same, is in jeopardy of being seriously tested.
- Allowing the Council to take into account ebbs and flows in valuations, while making sure all ratepayers pay their share of the rate pool income– This is merely a poor attempt to explain what the Council does and fails to provide justification for the proposed change. Rate payers must be presented with any data that the Council used in determining that such a significant change is necessary and desirable.
- Supporting State Government’s and Council’s objectives to encourage development of vacant land– The proposed increase of 100% for applicable to vacant land and 50% for commercial and industrial properties is clearly discouraging. It sends a message to local businesses community, investors and commercial and industrial developers that the Council does not sympathize with existing businesses, nor does it support future development of vacant land for commercial and industrial use within the Council area.
- Sharing cost more equitably as commercial/industrial property owners use more Council resources than residential properties, for example roads, parking, stormwater, public health, waste and environment – In order to determine the accuracy of this statement, as a concerned rate payer, I request that the Council representative who made this statement provide the relevant supporting statistics. In addition, if the statement proves to be unsubstantiated, inaccurate or flawed in any way, I would like the Council to give a proposal of actions which could be undertaken to, as quoted from above, “share cost more equitably”.
- Providing a fairer rating system and funding for agreed service standards– I request that the Council representative who made this statement explain in detail the criteria that were used to determine that the proposed new system will be fairer.
I refer to the comment from the page 8 from Special Meeting of Council:
“In the event that Council was to implement differential rate for Commercial and Industrial land use a total of 581 of Council’s 38,365 rate payers would receive an increase in rates”
If a minority of 1.5% of the rate payers is subject to this enormous rate increase, in what way is the new system fairer? Will our Council conduct a study of the possible long term impact of the new system before implementing it? Who will be held responsible if an increase of this magnitude, targeting commercial and industrial rate payers, triggers a massive exodus of commercial and industrial businesses? Who will be accountable for any jobs lost?
Without a proper business base, we could end up with a “bedroom community”. People will have to commute further and further to find jobs, increasing both air pollution and traffic. Is this in line with the nation-wide effort to create more sustainable communities and to reduce our carbon footprint?
- Reducing the rates burden of future rate increases on residential properties – The burden of rate increases for all rate payers could be controlled in two major ways (without favoring one class and discriminating against the other). One of the options is to find more justifiable avenues through which to generate revenue, and the other is to increase accountability and implement cost saving measures internally. While the Council’s attempts to generate more revenue are quite obvious, we don’t hear too much about their efforts to control their expenditure.
Although I do understand the Council’s requirements to increase property taxes in order to cover rising operating cost, and I don’t necessarily disagree with changing the rating system, I believe that the justifications which were given by the Council are childish, disrespectful and not businesslike. I strongly believe that a premature adoption would create long-lasting negative effects for all rate payers.
Is dedicating only one hour for a public hearing, while on the other hand spending $150k on the “Civic Park Spectacular” - an indication of the Council’s priorities and care for the business community?