Bega Valley councillors angered by IPART rates review timing

A review of the state’s rating system drew consternation from councillors at last week’s meeting.

The main bone of contention was the timing of IPART’s request for submissions – during an election period and associated caretaker mode.

Councillors, including several who are brand new to the table, were told BVSC’s submission to IPART had to be received by Friday, two days after the meeting in which it was being discussed.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal was tasked late last year to undergo a review of the local government rating system, with terms of reference issued by the Baird government.

IPART was to consider current rating categories and exemptions, rating burdens across communities, land valuation methodologies, and the impact on rates of council mergers.

It released a draft report on August 22 this year and requested written submissions by October 14. Wednesday’s meeting was the first of the newly elected council and the only one since the draft report was released.

While councillors endorsed much of what staff had to say in their responses to each of 34 recommendations made by IPART, they were fuming at the process.

This is shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic – we’re not getting any more money, just annoying more people. - Cr Sharon Tapscott

“How much of this is there for public knowledge, and when were the community consulted on this?” Cr Russell Fitzpatrick said.

“I’m very conscious the community wanted consultation on every matter and now we have an item that could change the way every property is rated [with only one session to discuss it].

“I don’t know of anything more important to ratepayers than rates.”

Cr Sharon Tapscott also raised a concern that while the rating system may change, councils would not be collecting any additional revenue.

“This is shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic – we’re not getting any more money, just annoying more people,” she said.

“We haven’t had enough time to consider each part of this issue and to go through it well enough to tease out unintended consequences.”

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