FARM land ratepayers in the Horsham Rural City could experience some rate relief.
The council passed a motion to change its farm rate differential from 80 per cent to 67 per cent of the general rate to help ease the rate burden carried by the farming sector.
It was a part of the council's new rating strategy and policy which was discussed and adopted at a meeting on Monday night.
The draft policy and strategy were released to ratepayers for feedback following the council's January meeting.
Rates have been a contentious issue after the council's rates rose to the capped increase of 2.25 per cent in 2018-19. However, a breakdown of the rates meant residential rates decreased by 0.6 per cent, while farm rates increased by 11.8 per cent.
As part of its rating strategy, the council also adopted a recommendation to make the industrial and commercial differential 95 per cent of the general rate. It also adopted the recommendation to provide a $30 per property rebate for eligible pensioners.
Cr David Grimble moved a motion to make an amendment to a rating strategy recommendation. He suggested that instead of decreasing the flat municipal charge from $287 to $200, to lower it to $280 in the 2020-21 Budget.
"This would reduce the charge by $7, or 2.25 per cent. Reducing the municipal charge by $87 is quite significant," he said.
"This would have an impact on revenue and would shift the burden across all sectors."
The motion was carried with four in favour and three against, with Mayor Mark Radford, and Crs Pam Clarke and Les Power voting in the negative.
Cr Grimble said the policy needed to go to the community for submission.
"We need to give an opportunity to the ratepayers to see what they think," he said.
Cr Alethea Gulvin moved a motion to lower the suggested rating trigger point of 5 per cent to 3.5 per cent. The purpose of the trigger point is help council decide when a review of the differential needs to occur.
Cr Gulvin said lowering the trigger point would prevent major changes from happening and would help alleviate the rating burden.
The motion was carried six in favour and one against, with Cr Radford voting in the negative.
Cr Grimble said the council went through "dark days" last year during rating discussions, but said he was pleased that the council was taking action.
"Some could say that the increase last year showed the council was out of touch, especially since seasonal outcomes were already known prior to the Budget," he said.
"The way we were putting the rate burden on farmers was completely unsustainable. It should be noted that even with a 67 per cent farm rate differential, farmers are still carrying an unfair burden."
Cr John Robinson said the rating strategy document revealed that although farm land rates would decrease by -3.6 per cent in 2019-20, they would increase between 4.6 per cent and 4.9 per cent per annum until 2023-24.
"We might fix the problem this year, but we could just make it bad again over the next three years," he said.
Kalkee farmer Allan Mills attended the meeting and said he experienced a rate increase of 19 per cent in 2018-19. He also said he supported the farm rate differential.
"The differential brings it down to a more equal level as the other sectors, but it's still a high amount to pay. I'm pleased the council has taken notice of the review the independent committee came up with," he said.
"There needs to be a different rating system in place and that's up to the state and federal governments to change. Changes to the rating system need to be made over a period of time, they can't just all happen at once."
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