Pub owner fuming over $1800 bill for late rates
A BUNDABERG business owner is fuming after being stung by an $1800 fee from a collection agency hired by Bundaberg Regional Council to hunt down overdue rates.
But a Bundaberg Regional Council spokesman has defended its decision saying it has significantly tightened its financial policies in relation to rates collection and needed this money to be paid on time to fund vital community services.
Railway Hotel manager Steve Hooper said he was dismayed, angry, and a little curious, when his solicitors informed him a collection agency was chasing him for $1800.
Mr Hooper admits to not paying his $8000 March rates on time after a postal mix-up.
"The rates notices go down to my father's place and he must have missed it,” Mr Hooper said.
"All our rates have been paid on time except this one and some tough times after the floods.”
Mr Hooper paid the $8000 around May but was gobsmacked when he received this secondary bill requesting $1800.
"It's ridiculous,” he said.
"Rates are high enough as it is let alone being hit with an $1800 fee on top of it.
"I am a little bit lost as to what grounds council has to this.”
A council spokesman said the collection agency would act after two follow-up letters from the council including a final demand had been ignored.
It comes after the council removed responsibility of collecting outstanding amounts from its rates team.
"This recovery action results in additional costs for the defaulter and these additional costs are not 'late fees' or a 'fine' but reflect costs incurred against the recovery of the debt,” the spokesman said.
"This includes cost of collection, legal fees, loss of discount and interest accrued on the outstanding amount.”
The spokesman said the council required ratepayers to pay their rates as it was this money that funded council services.
"It is unfair on the vast majority of ratepayers if some ratepayers choose to ignore payment of their rates or do not take the offered opportunity to make suitable payment arrangements,” he said.
Ratepayers are reminded that current rates are due for payment by September 4 to ensure discounts can be applied.
"Residents who believe they will experience difficulty in meeting payments are urged to contact the council's rates team on 1300 883 699 to discuss their individual circumstances,” the spokesman said
"Our rates collection team is happy to work with ratepayers to establish a payment plan."