Murray River Council reveals rate harmonisation changes

By Riverine Herald

MURRAY River Council rate payers may see an increase or decrease in their rates according to the council's new rate harmonisation strategy.

The council has proposed that the rates burden will be shared amongst rating categories such as residential, farm and business properties.

Murray River Council general manager Des Bilske said adoption of a new rating structures makes this an important budget period for residents.

“The new property valuations that were undertaken by the NSW Valuer General’s Office in 2019 will come into effect from July 1, along with the introduction of rates harmonisation across the Council,” he said.

Overall values have increased across the whole of the council area by an average of 26 per cent.

Farmland has increased by an average of 41 per cent, residential land has increased by an average of 12 per cent and business land values have increased by an average of 9.5 per cent.

Because of these increases, the council has said there will soon be a standard base rate paid by everyone across the farmland, residential and business categories.

The council has said the new rate for all residents will be $273.35.

“The combination of the new property values and rates harmonisation may mean there are some larger changes than normal, some increases and some decreases, in the individual rates amounts for some properties,” Mr Bilske said.

Rates harmonisation means the council will now have one general rating structure, instead of the two different structures across previously existing boundaries of the former Wakool and Murray Shires.

Harmonisation of rates is a requirement for all amalgamated councils in NSW.

“This was a very big task for our Council, and not one taken lightly, as we had to unify the differing structures into an equitable, uniform system across the new footprint,” he said.

“Council need to find a middle path that generates the rate base we need while minimising the dramatic ups and downs that would occur if we just applied an average of the ad valorem rates of the old shires.

“Options to achieve this have been extensively modelled, and after various workshops and input from our Community Rates Review Panel, Council have determined a preferred rating model.”

The Community Rates Review Panel was formed in April to provide feedback and advice to Council in the development of the preferred rate structure option.

The panel consists of 10 community members who were selected through an expression of interest process and includes residential, business and farmland ratepayers from the former Murray and Wakool shires.

The Panel recommended a set of principles for a preferred rating structure to council and the majority of Panel members supported option 12.

Rate Structure Option 12 is based on a simplified version of Council’s previous rating structure, and follows a principles-based approach with:

● A simpler categorisation structure with sub-categorisation for different population and activity centres

● Incorporates a common ad valorem and base structure across all categories to ensure a simpler and fairer distribution across categories where land values set by the NSW government dictate the level of rates paid

● The rates yield by category and sub-category is similar to the existing (current year) rates yield and aligned to the new land valuations set by the NSW Government.
In this way, all properties within a subcategory pay a proportionate share toward the cost of infrastructure based on their land value and the base charge can be increased or decreased as required in the future.

“We are now asking the community to tell us if our chosen model achieves the outcomes of equity, fairness and simplicity,” Mr Bilske said.

To get more information on rates harmonisation or to have your say, residents should visit the council’s online engagement portal:

Submissions will be received until 4pm on Friday 19 June 2020.