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Wimmera VFF leaders welcome rates scrutiny

Farmers gather outside Horsham Rural City Council before a rates meeting.

Farmers gather outside Horsham Rural City Council before a rates meeting last year.

By DEAN LAWSON
Wimmera farmer leaders have tentatively welcomed the direction of a Horsham Rural City Council draft rates plan.
But they remain firm that further analysis and work is required to establish equity between community sectors shouldering the rates burden.
Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera branch members made their position clear on rates at an annual meeting in Horsham on Monday night.
Branch immediate past president and Wallup farmer Daniel Keam said Horsham district farmers would continue to pursue a ‘fair and equitable’ direction and outcome on municipal rates.
“We believe the farming sector still carries too much of the rates burden, but the Horsham draft rates plan is a small step in the right direction,” he said.
A Horsham draft Rating Strategy 2019-2023 now available for public feedback includes a farm-sector differential change from 80 to 67 percent of the general rate.
Horsham Rural City Council has placed the draft Rating Policy and draft Rating Strategy on public exhibition and invited submissions.
The draft rating plan also includes establishing a 95 percent differential of the general rate for commercial and industrial sectors; reducing a flat municipal charge per property from $287 to $200; applying a $30 rebate per property for eligible pensioners in addition to a state-funded pensioner rebate; and applying a Differential Review Trigger of plus or minus five percent relative to property valuation movement per sector.
The draft strategy is based on an evaluation of recommendations from a rates strategy advisory committee.
Mr Keam said Wimmera VFF branch would recommend the council maintain a flat municipal charge at $287 instead of reducing it to $200.
“The municipal charge is a flat rate across the board where everyone pays the same and as such would help to reduce the rate burden overall,” he said.
“Horsham’s rates plan is far from perfect, but I don’t think anything ever will be when it comes to rates.
“It has established a position that brings everyone to the table and acknowledges what the VFF and ratepayers have been advocating for the past 10 months.”
Mr Keam said most people at the meeting were dumbfounded, believing what the council had presented as a rates solution was ‘the same’ that had been suggested almost a year ago.
“The feeling was that establishing a committee to come up with the same formula that had gone before council previously had been a waste of money. Information from the meeting was that it had cost $70,000,” he said.
“There was general amazement at this. Ultimately, we will continue to lobby for representation in the rates debate and believe there is an opportunity to improve the rates-burden equity even more.”
Mr Keam said it was important for municipal and government leaders to get the rates formula right as part of an overall reconnection between rural and urban ratepayers.
“There is a growing disconnect between sectors,” he said.
“It is important we work hard to re-establish crucial ties. Communities and sectors rely heavily on each other to be progressive and healthy.”
Wimmera branch members also dealt with other general business at the meeting, which included the election of new president Graeme Maher, from Lubeck.
Mr Keam, president for the past four years, said Mr Maher was well respected in the farming industry and was an ideal person for the job.

The entire February 6, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

Short URL: http://www.theweeklyadvertiser.com.au/?p=73400

Posted on Feb 6 2019

Posted by on Feb 6 2019. Filed under Agriculture, News. 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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