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Rural residents: Swan rate review unfair

THE City of Swan’s rate review is creating a lot of concern in Gidgegannup as most residents there believe they live in a rural area and that their properties are mainly used for rural purposes.

More than 1000 rural residents have joined a Facebook page called Residents against City of Swan Rate Method Change at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ 707812092741742/

The review involves more than 4000 unimproved value (UV) rated properties across the city with ratepayers are being asked to provide evidence that they should not be changed from UV to gross rental value (GRV) rating.

On Swan Valley & Regional Networks a rural community member called on the Local Government Minister David Templeman and City of Swan to stop the rate review.

The rural community member said the council seemed to have adopted the rates review to extract an unfair and unjust amount from rural property owners, as evidenced by the April 12 minutes, which said the yield from properties would rise by 3.25 per cent.

“Part of the ‘strategy’ has involved sending out 4000 letters to affected ratepayers to change their rating methodology from UV to GRV,’’ the community member said.

“The council collected approximately $108 million dollars from rate payers in 2016-17 so the extra 3.25 per cent will extract about $3.5m from ratepayers.

“What is most concerning though, is that these ‘letters’ were sent out in the form [of] an innocent survey.

“Once they are returned, the council treats these them as legally binding documents to change the rating methodology without any further consultation with the ratepayers or details on how their answers will affect their rates.

“The terms GRV & UV tend to muddy the waters a little, what we are really talking about is rural and urban properties.

“Urban properties have all the facilities a modern city can provide – street lighting, kerbs & drainage, civic centres, bulk waste collection, and the list goes on.

“Rural properties have none of these, but owners are quite happy to look after themselves.’’

The rural community member went on to say according to the FAQ sheet supplied by the council “the phrase rural purpose was not defined by the Local Government Act and had not been judicially considered”.

“The council has arbitrarily decided that rural purpose means earning the majority of their income directly from the land.

“The physical use of the land, lack of urban services, the landscape, the keeping of animals and the raising of crops as well as the custodian ship of places of cultural and natural importance are deemed to not be of relevance.

“Rural property owners are happy to pay reasonable rates for the lack of services provided by the council and do not want or need extra ‘services’ forced on them by a council.

“It is unfair and inequitable to force rural ratepayers to pay more for their rates, so the council can balance their books.

“I call on the council and the Minister to immediately abandon this totally unfair and inequitable scheme.’’

The city has extended the time for ratepayers to return the land use declaration form until Friday, December 22.

On its website the city said it had sent letters about a review of valuation method and if the declaration was not returned in time it would assume a ratepayer’s land was used predominantly for non-rural purposes based on the data already obtained for their property.

The council wants to have any changes in place for the 2018-19 financial year.

If ratepayers return a declaration form council officers consider the ratepayer’s submission and the evidence, using a range of techniques, including aerial photographs and/or site visits, to determine if they consider the change to be appropriate.

A report is prepared for the council to look at all the submissions and make a decision on the proposed changes.

Details of the properties will then be sent to Local Government Minister David Templeman for approval of the change to land use.

Once finalised all changes get published in the Government Gazette and the local government is notified by the Minister.

The Valuer General then revalues the property and notifies the local government who will apply the new valuation method in the future.

Changing the method of valuation from UV to GRV is not related to the services provided – it is solely determined on the use of the land.

If the method of valuation for your property changes from UV to GRV, it does not affect or change the land uses applicable to a property.

If a property changes from UV to GRV, rates may increase or decrease depending on the valuation provided by the Valuer General’s Office and the rate in the dollar.

If your property use changes in future you can apply to the city to have it reassessed.

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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