A HORSHAM City councillor has proposed a change in the farm differential to share the rate burden across the municipality.
Horsham’s draft 2018-19 budget rose all average rates to the capped increase of 2.25 per cent. However, residential rates were decreased by 0.6 per cent, while farm rates increased by 11.8 per cent. Horsham council’s proposed $52.5 million budget would be serviced by $23.3 million in rates.
Cr David Grimble foreshadowed a notice of motion at a meeting on Tuesday night to increase the farm differential to 70 per cent. The current differential is 80 per cent. His proposal is due to be discussed at a special council meeting on June 25.
Cr Grimble said there was an “inequitable distribution” of rates and the burden transferred to one sector.
He said the farm capital improve value increased by $229 million from last year, which equates to an additional $645,000 in rates from the farm sector.
Meanwhile, the residential sector increased by $96 million, which equates to a reduction in the sector’s rate burden by an average $67,000 less than last year.
Cr Grimble said the rates strategy was a land tax that was unsustainable. He said until the system changed, council had the ability to make adjustments to the differential to create a “fair and equitable rate burden” across the municipality.
He moved a secondary motion to consult council officers to identify the burden change on other sectors.
Mayor Pam Clarke said councillors did not have “the luxury” to represent one group. She said council needed to look at how changes to the differential would impact residents who did not get a tax exemption. She said the rates system was “broken” and needed state government intervention.
Cr John Robinson said farmers were a small percentage of ratepayers, but paid a significant amount of council’s rate income and did not receive services to the amount they provided. He said council might need to defer or abandon projects that did not benefit farmers.
“If they are the ones putting up significant funds, then they should have a greater say in what we do,” he said.
Cr Mark Radford said council should be “cautious” moving forward because other sectors would have to pay the difference if the differential was adjusted.