Rates rise as land value plummets

FED UP: Chinchilla resident Gordon Hodgson is not happy that council rates continue to rise while land value and services decline.
FED UP: Chinchilla resident Gordon Hodgson is not happy that council rates continue to rise while land value and services decline. Julia Baker

A CHINCHILLA pensioner is fed up and wants answers from Western Downs Regional Council after receiving his latest half-yearly rates notice.

Gordon Hodgson is feeling the sting of the increasing cost of rates while the land value of his property continues to plummet.

His rates have risen from $774.01 in February 2015 to $920.27 in February of this year, an increase of $146.26 in two years.

This year the value of MrHodgson's land has plunged to $95,000 from $180,000 in 2015.

The 2016-17 Mayoral Budget Statement released in June 2016 said for the majority of residents, rates would increase by 2.9% on average and the average residential property general rate would increase by $23.68 a year or 46 cents a week.

Between 2016 and 2017, however, Mr Hodgson's rates have risen from $801.39 to $902.27, an increase of $118.88 or 14.8%.

Mr Hodgson said he was speaking up because many people in the community shared his concerns.

"This is why I reckon I should mention it because I've spoken to other people and they all say the same thing," he said.

"I've mentioned it to the council before when I've paid my rates and they just say that's the way it is, they're just ignoring me but they probably do that to everyone.

"It's not me personally, it's an overall complaint."

Mr Hodgson said his biggest gripe was not the decreased value of his land but that the council had reduced services in the Chinchilla area.

"The council is meant to mow the footpath, it's council property, but for the last three months the next door neighbour has been doing it for me on his ride-on," he said.

"Everyone I talk to says there is a lack of service and costs are going up.

"One person I spoke to is on the council, when he went on long service they didn't replace him, they just carried on with less staff. They are reducing staff and not keeping up with the work.

"They are reducing their services around town. I get the garbage picked up but there are other things that were done by the council and now they're not, like looking after the parks and gardens and I've heard complaints about the roads."

The council calculates rates using a rate in the dollar amount, which is multiplied by the unimproved value of a property.

In the past five years from 2012-17 the rate in the dollar amount has risen from 0.004495 to 0.00574.

Mr Hodgson is a pensioner who receives a payment of just over $800 a fortnight and said every six months he paid his rates with "great difficulty".

"I have a very small reserve which I don't like to touch but what I do is go in and pay it and get my discount for paying early, then I use my bank card to pay it but then I pay that off, you see, so I end up paying the interest," he said.

The pay-on-time discount applies to residents who pay their notice early but was halved in the council's last budget from 10% to 5%.

Mr Hodgson is also eligible for a pension council rates rebate, a set amount that remains unchanged despite fluctuations in rate prices.

At the end of last financial year, Western Downs Regional Council also decreased the pension council rates rebate by 5%.

"Two years ago my pension rebate was $209.32, this year it's $209.96. My rebate has only gone up by 64 cents," he said.

Mayor Paul McVeigh said council had a "rates baseline" it needed to maintan, and also said he was disappointed to hear criticism of Western Downs Regional Council's Parks and Gardens team.

"Our parks and gardens crew have greatly improved what they do, it's been a priority of ours," he said.

"We have just started consulting on and planning for Chinchilla Botanical Garden.

"The team works hard to upkeep the gardens and for the development of our community ... our crew have been doing a great job, so I am really disappointed to hear that.

"People would be disappointed if we didn't deliver a high standard of liveability in our communities ... if we stagnate our rates our services would drop off.

"Land values decrease but the costs for council of maintenance and the upkeep of our communities doesn't ... we have a rates baseline we need to achieve to provide services."

Cr McVeigh said while he understood people liked to "keep money in their pockets", there was a monetary value the council needed to reach to run to budget.

The council is currently working on its next budget, which is due to be released in June.

"We want to be as efficient as we can, we are really focused on providing the best of service at the most economical cost to provide services to the community," Cr McVeigh said.

Topics:  chinchilla land values rate rise western downs regional council

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