The Weekly Advertiser

Horsham council remains firm on rates decision

Horsham councillor David Grimble addresses the chamber during a special meeting on June 25.

Horsham councillor David Grimble addresses the chamber during a special meeting on June 25.

By SARAH SCULLY
Horsham Rural City farmers again made up the majority of a packed council chamber on Monday night, hoping a last-ditch attempt to change an ‘unfair and inequitable’ rating system would pay off.
At a special meeting on June 25, Horsham council denied the rural sector’s 11th-hour plea to reduce a farm-rate burden, adopting the council’s 2018-19 draft budget and rating strategy without changes.
On Monday night, the council formally received a petition containing 76 signatures calling on the organisation to consider the ‘equity and fairness of the situation’.
‘The situation’ is an 11.8 percent increase in rates for the farm sector and a 0.6 percent decrease for the residential sector.
Several farmers have reported rate increases of between 30 and 60 percent based on early valuation estimates.
Councillor David Grimble – who on June 25 asked the council to adopt the draft 2018-19 budget but cap each class at no more than the State Government-imposed rate cap of 2.25 percent – made it clear on Monday night he did not consider the council’s decision to meet ‘fair and equitable’ statutory requirements.
Crs Grimble and John Robinson voted against adopting the draft documents without changes after introducing motions to ‘ensure an equitable impost of rates and charges’.
Cr Grimble said on Monday night this was the first budget he had failed to accept since joining the council in 2008.
“I understand councillors made a decision and I accept that, but I cannot support the budget and the outcome we adopted,” he said.
“A lot of people have made comments to me that they’re happy to pay their share providing it’s fair and I think that’s fair and reasonable.
“The farmers will pay 92 percent of the $699,000 rate revenue increase this year. I don’t think anyone could argue that paying 92 percent of the total increase of the budget required to run this municipality for the next 12 months could ever be fair.”
Revised option
On Monday night, Cr Grimble moved a motion that the council commit to creating a revised 2018-19 budget with a public exhibition period and submission process.
The revised budget would be adopted prior to the delivery of rate notices and ‘no land class would rise more than the State Government rate cap of 2.25 percent from 2017-18 rate revenue received’.
Invalid
But chief executive Sunil Bhalla said Cr Grimble’s motion was invalid because after a notice of motion was lost – as Cr Grimble’s was at the previous meeting – a similar motion could not be brought before the council for at least three months.
Cr John Robinson then moved: “The council amend the 2018-19 rating policy by removing the 2.25 percent increase as applied in the general rate in the 2017-18 budget and apply the 12-month Consumer Price Index of 1.9 percent to each assessment of general rates.”
His motion included that council retain its current rate differential structure, along with municipal and other charges, discounts and exemptions.
But corporate services director Graeme Harrison explained Cr Robinson’s motion was also invalid.
“To try to achieve what Cr Robinson is trying to achieve would actually require us to have a differential for every assessment that we have. It’s not something we’re allowed to do under the ministerial guidelines,” he said.
Cr Robinson said he would like to table his ‘extreme disappointment that other municipalities seem to be able to move and we don’t’.
Cr Mark Radford moved an officer’s recommendation that the council note the impact of the significant increase in farm valuations.
The motion also involved noting legal advice that any amendment to the council’s rating structure be deferred until next year’s budget ‘to ensure good strategic and financial practices can be implemented’; and reaffirm the council’s commitment to undertake a detailed review of its rate strategy, including the farm rate differential, ahead of its next budget. His motion passed, five to two, with Crs Robinson and Grimble voting against.
During debate, Cr Radford acknowledged the farmers’ petition and said it was important everyone in the community had an opportunity to have a say on a variety of issues.
He said the council made a commitment on June 25 to review its rate strategy ahead of the 2018-19 budget.
A report from Mr Harrison showed a draft Rates Strategy Project Brief was being prepared and an independent consultant would undertake a review.
Cr Radford said the report included a focus on good governance.
“What we’ve witnessed tonight is examples of bad governance, when we try to do things on the run,” he said. “It confuses everybody. Going down the road of having a proper review of our strategy creates an opportunity for everyone to have a say.”
Cr Les Power said he applauded members of the gallery for attending the meeting and said he hoped they would continue to attend.
“I’d also like to applaud Cr Grimble and Cr Robinson on their efforts to fight for 10 percent of the population. I think that’s fantastic,” he said.
‘Naive and inappropriate’
His comment incensed the gallery, along with Crs Robinson and Grimble, who said Cr Power’s comments were ‘naive and inappropriate’.
Cr Power said he was ‘there for all residents’ and that if things were to change, they would do so in the next 12 months.
“Everyone needs to sit down and look at things and go through processes,” he said.
“We need time to do that. The last two weeks have been a shambles.
“We need to, as councillors, stand up to our community and work together.
“Hopefully in the next 12 months we can work with all of the community and come up with a common goal. We don’t need to be making quick, assertive decisions tonight.”

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Horsham council denies farmers’ rates appeal; Northern Grampians increases farm differential
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Early release of Horsham farm rates ‘a win’

The entire July 18, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Jul 17 2018

Posted by on Jul 17 2018. Filed under Community, FEATURED, News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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