Horsham farm differential, municipal rates to increase

HORSHAM farmers could pay 80 per cent of the municipal rate in the next financial year.

Horsham Rural City Council has proposed to raise the farm rating differential to 20 per cent.

Council adopted its 2014-15 draft rating strategy and draft budget at a meeting on Monday night.

The documents also proposed to increase municipal rates by five per cent, which will be council’s lowest increase in 12 years.  

Council released its rates strategy review last month, which proposed a differential that farmers paid 15 per cent less in rates. 

Council received three submissions to the strategy, all from farmers, calling for the differential to be increased further.

Corporate services director Graeme Harrison said the differential 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.

“This council has recognised the need to balance the inequity between the rural and urban sectors.'' - Cr Tony Phelan

Cr Tony Phelan welcomed the increased farm differential.

“This council has recognised the need to balance the inequity between the rural and urban sectors,” he said.

Cr Phelan said road management was one reason for the differential. 

“Residential roads are used more than minor roads therefore road access for farmers is not at the same level as others in the community,” he said.

“Also the increase in value of farming properties way outstrips other property values.”

Cr Mark Radford said six years ago council had a five per cent farm differential.

“Then we increased it to 10 per cent and now 20 per cent,” he said.

Mayor David Grimble said the five per cent municipal rate increase was something council had not seen for many years. 

“It is a great outcome,” he said.  

The 2014-15 budget includes $10,000 for new jumps at the skate park, $240,000 for footpath repairs, $210,000 for upgrades to the Bennett Road Kindergarten, $204,000 for upgrades to the Green Park Kindergarten and $1.25 million for a pedestrian bridge over the Wimmera River.

The budget will also see council borrowing $4.305 million, which brings the total borrowings to $7.4 million.

Council will spend $11.5 million in 2014-15 on the town hall and art gallery redevelopment project.

The money will be made up of $2.5 million from grants, $3.475 million in loans, $4.5 million in council reserves and $1 million from fundraising.

Cr Heather Phillips said it was a tight budget, with not much extra cash.

“We will have to tighten our belts for the next few years to pay for the town hall,” she said.

Both the draft rating strategy and budget will be available for public comment until June 18.

Cr Grimble said he encouraged people to have a look at the documents.

“There will also be a public information session on May 28,” he said.

Cr Grimble said both documents were available from hrcc.vic.gov.au.

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