WIMMERA residents will help shape Victoria's local government rating system.
A community consultation session for the state government's independent rates review will be run in Horsham next month.
Feedback from the session will form the basis of the Local Government Rating System Review.
Rates have been a contentious issue in the region after a breakdown of Horsham Rural City Council's 2018-19 Budget meant residential rates decreased by 0.6 per cent, while farm rates increased by 11.8 per cent.
The council changed its farm rate differential from 80 per cent to 67 per cent of the general rate in 2019-20 to help ease the rate burden carried by the farming sector.
Yarriambiack Shire Council's general rate increased by 2.23 per cent in 2019-20 due to the council's slight over application in the 2018-19 financial year.
West Wimmera Shire Council successfully applied for a rate cap exemption in 2019-20 with rates rising by 3.5 per cent.
Former Melbourne City Council, Royal Children's and Royal Women's hospitals chief executive Kathy Alexander will chair the rates inquiry panel.
Dr Alexander said the panel was almost halfway through its three-month consultation period.
"So far these sessions have given us with valuable information about what people think of the rating system," she said.
"Grampians communities can provide critical insight into how the application of rates affect them and help identify where the rating system can be improved or strengthened.
"We want to hear from community members and businesses about their experience with rates, along with any issues we may not have covered."
She said the review's discussion paper covered issues such as rate exemptions, discounts and rating practices by councils.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said Horsham was chosen for the session due to its central location in the Wimmera. She also said people could submit submissions to the inquiry online prior to the session.
Horsham Rural City chief executive Sunil Bhalla said he was pleased the session was being facilitated in Horsham.
"I'd encourage anybody with an opinion on council rates to get involved," he said.
"In October last year council submitted a motion to the Municipal Association of Victoria's State Conference calling for a state-wide into how rates are calculated. Therefore we welcome the review and look forward to participating wherever necessary.
"Our council believes that placing the burden on property rates as the main source of funding is unsustainable, particularly for rural councils.
"For rural councils, property values in the farm sector are increasing at a higher rate that other sectors, pushing the cost burden for rate increases towards the farm sector."
The panel will share its findings with Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek by March 2020. The Fair Go rate cap will not be covered in the review and will be separately reviewed by 2021.
The session will be at Federation University's Wimmera campus in Horsham on October 15 from 7pm.
The Mail-Times contacted Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents for comment.
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