Wimmera residents' rate rises among Victoria's highest: councils call for new model

WIMMERA councils have called for a new municipal rates model, after residents' individual rate increases were among the highest in Victoria.

Despite Wimmera councils having generally low municipal rates compared with other Victorian municipalities, the rate each Wimmera resident pays individually is among the highest.

The Municipal Association of Victoria rate package details all municipal rates for 2014-15.

The figures show Buloke Shire had the greatest increase in rates per person in the state, with an increase of $186.

Yarriambiack Shire was second with a $100 increase, third was Hindmarsh Shire with a $93 increase and fifth was West Wimmera with an $81 increase.

Northern Grampians Shire had a $71 increase per person.

Yarriambiack chief executive Ray Campling said there was a need to revise the way rates were calculated.

"It is simply unfair and unreasonable for our communities to continually increase rates on an annual basis to meet community needs, wants and expectations," he said.

"However, small councils do not generally have alternative avenues to generate income, other than through the provision of general rates, waste management charges and municipal charges."

Mr Campling said local government received only 3.4 per cent of the $416 billion of taxes raised throughout Australia.

"This percentage definitely needs to be re-examined and more appropriately proportioned," he said.

"The Federal Government has the power, the State Government has the dollars and unfortunately local government has all the problems."

Mr Campling said the freezing of the Financial Assistance Grants for the next three years would have a detrimental effect on the shire.

"However, Yarriambiack Shire and all local government authorities are continually and proactively examining how to make things more efficient and effective," he said.

"It is our obligation to our communities to evolve and build strong relationships. As the adage says it is not necessarily the strongest, or most intelligent beast, but it's the beast that is prepared to change that will survive and flourish."

West Wimmera chief executive Mark Crouch said small rural councils were placed under increasing pressure to provide and deliver an ever-expanding suite of services.

"The demand for services and the ever-present push down on local government by other levels of government, often without offsetting funding resources, places pressure on small councils to perform," he said.

"Although the range of services offered by councils in rural areas is usually less than in the larger urban centres, contemporary service provision by local government in rural areas has expanded significantly over the past decade."

Mr Crouch said West Wimmera was one of the most sparsely settled areas in the state.

"Yet our communities have an expectation around modern day service delivery," he said.

"With large areas to service and on a low rate base, this will always be challenging.

"The property-based rating system we have is not perfect and not without its detractors.

"The challenge will be to come up with a better system that has wide-based support."


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