Horsham Rural City Council lifts farm rate differential

HORSHAM Rural City Council proposes to keep its municipal charge as it stands and raise the farm differential to 15 per cent for the 2014-15 financial year.

Council has called on residents to provide feedback on its Rates Strategy Review Report, which was adopted on Monday night.

Corporate services director Graeme Harrison said council completed a detailed review of its 2005 rating strategy in response to submissions received for the 2013-14 budget.

"Council believes that this review of its current strategy has been comprehensive and that ultimately the existing rating strategy satisfies the key principles," he said.

"As a result, only minor changes have been recommended."

Council proposes to maintain the municipal charge at the current rate of $268 for the next three years.

"This is in recognition that the rate is at the higher end of the scale and therefore impacts more greatly on lower valued properties," Mr Harrison said.

"If rate increases were to continue at five per cent over this three-year period, fixing the municipal charge would effectively result in a 16 per cent decrease in real terms."

Mr Harrison said council proposed to continue with a differential for the farm sector.

He said this was in recognition of changes to relative property values in the past 10 years; the high value of land as an input to farm operations; and in recognition of some lesser access to services associated with the rural isolation of the majority of the farming sector.

Mr Harrison said changes in valuations per assessment during the past 10 years had resulted in a five per cent higher valuation per assessment for farmland over other land.

"This provides a reasonable justification for an additional five per cent differential," he said.

"It is therefore proposed to increase the farm differential by a further five per cent to 15 per cent or 85 per cent of the general rate, effective from 2014-15."

Cr Tony Phelan supported the concept of a farm differential.

"On a few occasions, the capital improved value of farming land has increased at a greater rate than the general capital improved value evaluations," he said.

"That's a shift in itself towards funding properties.

"The other reason we need to consider it is that we have an accumulation of services generally in a central place and we have an accumulation of farming properties generally away from that central place so there is an access problem in regard to some services.

"I do support a farm differential rating. I'm not sure exactly where it should be. I would think 15 per cent is a more optimal level."

Cr Mark Radford hopes residents will take the opportunity to read the review report and provide feedback.

"If there was one disappointing thing about the process, it would be the lack of public involvement," he said.

Cr Radford said the rating strategy was a core component of council's budget process.

"Please tell us what you think," he said.

The Rates Strategy Review Report is available at hrcc.vic.gov.au.

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