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Louise Staley: Ararat rates vote needs explanation

Louise Staley

Louise Staley

Anxiety over an Ararat rating plan has prompted Member for Ripon Louise Staley to urge municipal leaders to further explain their reasoning in overlooking community recommendations.
Ms Staley said she was concerned that Ararat Rural City Council had failed to adopt advice stemming from an in-depth and democratic examination of Ararat’s rating system.
“Yes, I have concerns. A Commission of Inquiry into Ararat Rural City Council made it very clear that a process involving a rating advisory panel and a Citizen’s Jury was the key for Ararat getting this right,” she said.
“And it is not surprising to me that people who were on the advisory panel and jury, who did all that work to come up with recommendations, are now seeking further explanation about why the council did not adopt their primary recommendations.”
Disappointed members of the Ararat Rural City Rating Advisory Group have gone as far as calling on Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz to intervene in the process.
They are worried that internal council ‘biases, conflicts and cherry-picking’ might have influenced a council decision in voting for a draft rates plan.
They have written to the minister ‘to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate ARCC situation and community divide that ratepayers were forced to deal with last year’.
They also sought a meeting with the council to discuss concerns.
The Ararat council last month voted in favour of a draft Ararat rating plan for 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21, which included differential percentages of general, 100; commercial-industrial, 124; and farm, 55.
This was regardless of a Citizen’s Jury, presented with five months of information from the advisory group, voting 17-4 for the split to be – farming 45 percent and commercial-industrial 125 percent and a 10 percent charge to apply across the municipality.
People had until Friday last week to make a written submission about the draft plan with an invitation to talk on their submissions at a special meeting yesterday. The council will consider submissions at its June 26 meeting.
Need to know
Ms Staley said the council had done everything the Commission of Inquiry had asked of it regarding community consultation and involvement except adopt what had been a clear recommendation.
“People need to know why this happened and it has to be more than buried in meeting minutes,” she said.
“This is such an issue of interest to the broader Ararat community I would have thought it demanded a better communications strategy. People need to know.”
Ararat council chief executive Allan Bawden told The Weekly Advertiser last week the council’s draft rating plan reflected the work of both the advisory group and the jury.
He added the draft incorporated elements recommended by both groups and the key difference in the model tabled was to leave a municipal charge unchanged – in line with a council commitment to reduce the rate impact on all ratepayers.

The entire June 13, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Jun 13 2018

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