Rates decision disappoints
IT IS very disappointing and extremely unfair that the Horsham Rural City Council has adopted its rates strategy for the coming year, albeit by the smallest possible margin of one vote.
Congratulations to the minority of councillors, the Victorian Farmers Federation and many individuals who continue to strive for common sense, fairness and equity to prevail in regards to payment of land rates in the Horsham municipality.
The state government has set a cap of 2.25 per cent on rate increases, thus I fail to see how some of the Horsham councillors think that it can be fair to reduce residential rates slightly while increasing rural rates by a massive 11.8 per cent.
I understand that a property is valued on its market value but the farming community needs that land to make a living. There is no correlation between the value of that land if it was sold tomorrow and the income that can be derived in good years and bad by sheer hard work and long hours by all family members.
Many farmers already have loans against their land and for machinery and will be using overdrafts with high interest rates to pay for these rate increases, which means they will be doubly penalised.
The rural community is a strong supporter of many of the small and large businesses and industries based in the city of Horsham. In fact, many of these businesses could not survive without their support.
As has already been stated, we are a "community" but nontheless one cannot escape the fact that Horsham Rural City thrives because it is at the centre of a fertile piece of Australia which is being nurtured by our amazing farmers to produce high quality food for world wide distribution.
The farming community cannot afford to keep paying hefty rate increases to prop up the city expenditure. There is no bottomless pit of revenue for councils to continue planning and/or building new stadiums, new kerbing, expansions, updating, painting and renovating of existing infrastructure.
While I have no problem with any of the above improvements to Horsham, I strongly believe that the delivery should be based on a priority list and as the finance becomes available, as opposed to the council slugging the rural community an extra 11.8 per cent in rates to cover all of the planned projects in the coming year.
I have read the argument that changing the rate strategy now could land the Horsham council in the Supreme Court.
I am wondering if that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Perhaps the Supreme Court could see the inequity of the situation and at the very least bring the concerns of the farming community into the public arena.
Joyce Mills, Horsham
Follow neighbour’s move
IT BEGGARS belief that Horsham Rural City Council have targeted our local farmers and have subjected them to an increase in their rates by 11.8 per cent yet rewarding local residents with a decrease in their rates.
Ratepayers do not expect a reduction in their rates and this reduction in residential rates is a pretty hard pill to swallow when it has come at the expense of our farmers.
Quite simply, this town needs our farmers.
Local business could not be more aware of this fact and appreciate and need the money the farmers spend locally.
We are a farming community and this unfair rate increase has sparked great debate among locals who are struggling to understand why council have singled out the farming sector.
I have not spoken to anyone who believes the council have made the correct discussion by unjustly increasing farmers’ rates – quite the opposite.
Our neighbouring Northern Grampians shire chose to and applied a flat rate increase of 2.25 per cent across all ratepayers.
Why then did our council not implement the same fairness in our municipality?
Our Mayor, Pam Clarke, was adamant that the Horsham council would be sued – those are strong words – if they implemented the same rate structure.
However, I believe that there was ‘wriggle room’ open to our council in this procedure.
As I understand it, it would have meant the council go back to the drawing board and spend more time to come up with a fairer result.
Councillor David Grimble has spent countless hours working towards a fairer outcome for all, but sadly his common sense and logical approach is been continually ignored by the majority of our fellow councillors.
At a council meeting on June 25, Crs Grimble, John Robinson and Josh Koenig voted against the increase. Crs Clarke, Mark Radford and Les Power voted for the rate increase, leaving it at tied vote 3-3.
As Cr Alethea Gulvin was absent, the mayot was given the deciding vote – which would increase farm rates.
At Monday’s council meeting, again the gallery was overflowing with more than 130 concerned farmers and residents.
Sadly, again, the gallery sat and listened to a repeat of the previous meeting.
As a resident and ratepayer, I fail to see how our council is representing us fairly.
With Crs Grimble and Robinson pleading with the council to listen and re-evaluate their positions, coupled with the strong display of disgruntled ratepayers present at recent meetings, it appears the remaining councillors and mayor have taken their stance.
This is a time to take a step back and really listen, and a time to show some old-fashioned leadership.
Our neighbouring shire has been able to achieve and submit a budget that is fair to all ratepayers. I only hope that our council can take a step back and treat all ratepayers with the same respect.
Jill Taylor, Horsham