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Council supports rating reform bill for a fairer rating system

Councillors have moved to support a bill proposed by the Office of Local Government that will change the way Council can set rating structures and implement rates harmonisation at the January 27 Ordinary Council Meeting.

The Exposure Draft Bill Local Government Amendment (Rating) Bill 2021 was released for public consultation on 22 December 2020 by the NSW Government in an attempt to deliver a fairer and more flexible rating system for ratepayers and Councils. This will provide some relief to those set to be affected by the rates harmonisation that will be implemented from July 1 2021.

Since the amalgamation of Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire in 2016, Armidale Regional Council has operated under two different rating systems due to a four year rates freeze imposed by the NSW Government. This freeze will end on July 1 2021, meaning Armidale Regional Council will move to adopt one rating system for the whole Local Government Area (LGA).

If the bill is passed by parliament, it would mean the impending rates harmonisation could be stretched out over a four year period, significantly decreasing the impact on ratepayers.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Ian Tiley said this would allow for a smoother transition for those set to be affected.

“Council understands the rates harmonisation will see a number of residents, particularly those in the Guyra area, begin to pay higher rates, so by staggering the changes the impact will be less significant,” said Cr Tiley.

This gradual approach could see Council apply no more than 50% of the total increase in rates at the rating category level over the period, in any one of the four financial years.

“If passed by parliament, the proposed bill would also allow Council to create a new rating category for environmental land to levy fairer rates for properties that can’t be developed, while also allowing us to create more flexible rating subcategories to better reflect access to services and infrastructure,” said Cr Tiley.

“This would create a fairer and more tailored rating system to suit the needs of ratepayers within our LGA.”

Council would also have the power to choose whether to exempt certain properties from special rates for water and sewerage, sell properties for unpaid rates after three years rather than five, and levy special rates above the rate peg for infrastructure jointly funded with other levels of government without the need for IPART approval.

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