Rates debate stalemate as council reaffirms position again
AS FARMERS continue to demand changes to agricultural rates, Bundaberg Regional Council
CEO Steve Johnston remains steadfast that council won't be reissuing the rates notices.
The consortium of farming peak bodies, AgForce, Bundaberg Canegrowers, Canegrowers Isis and Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, sent a letter to the council chief executive last week with numerous requests.
The letter outlined sections of the Local Government Regulations which related to ratepayer concessions.
"Section 122(1)(b) allows council to pass one resolution granting a concession to a ratepayer who is a member of a stated class of ratepayers," the letter reads.
"This allows the Council to pass a broad resolution to provide a concession to all ratepayers in the Category 9 - Agricultural Land class.
"This process is not novel and was successfully used by the Atherton Tablelands Regional Council to correct extreme increases in rural rates in their 2017-2018 budget."
A proposed motion was also highlighted in the letter with four points.
One of which stipulated the council provides a concession to all Category 9 ratepayers for the 2020-2021 financial year pursuant to section 119, 120, 121 and 122 of the Local Government Regulation 2012.
Another was that the council sets the concession at an amount to ensure that any rate increase for individual ratepayers within that class is no greater than CPI than the 2019-2020 financial year.
"We also request that Council agree to a delegation be received in support of the motion, and that Council redress the removal of the early payment option for all ratepayers, which does not require a concession to a category but merely a return of the option to the citizens of Bundaberg," the letter reads.
Mr Johnston said it was interesting that farming peak bodies were campaigning against their valuation increase when the opportunity to object was available to them and only a few dozen did so.
"The fact is that valuations across the category rose by 46 per cent, whereas most other ratepayers had little change," Mr Johnston said.
"It would have been unfair on pensioners, mums and dads and small businesses for them to subsidise landowners whose property wealth increased substantially.
"As I indicated last week, Council won't be reissuing the rates notices.
"Canegrowers and BFVG haven't submitted any evidence to support a claim of collective hardship, which is an implausible proposition considering that nearly 80 per cent of agricultural ratepayers have already paid their rates."
He said individuals can already apply for relief under the council's hardship policy but they need to provide proof of their circumstances.
"Individual ratepayers who are suffering genuine financial distress can negotiate payment terms under the hardship policy," Mr Johnston said.
"Anyone who feels they can't afford to pay their rates should contact council."