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Third rates freeze proposed for Swan

SWAN mayor David Lucas has signalled his support for a “modest” rate rise in 2022/23, despite City staff saying a zero per cent increase would be achievable within the proposed budget.   

If Swan Council adopts its advertised rates when it comes time to approve the annual budget in July, it will mean the City will enter its third year with a zero per cent rate rise.

However, at this month’s council meeting mayor David Lucas said he would not support a zero per cent rate increase and that a “modest” rise of 1.5 to 2 per cent would be appropriate.

“If we keep having zero per cent rate increases we will not be sustainable,” he said.

“I think a small increase would be understandable by the residents and ratepayers.

“I think they would understand when other local governments are going up by as much as 4 per cent or more that we should have a modest increase in our rate base.

“I know everyone wants to be a ‘zero hero’ because it looks good but in the long term financial sustainability it is bad for the City of Swan.”

Despite not increasing the rate in the dollar across its rating categories, the City would generate about $137 million from rates in 2022/23, an additional $2 million on rates revenue from the previous financial year.

This is attributed to the growth in the number of rateable properties – more properties equals more rates received.

The City applies a differential rating method, being gross rental value (GRV) and unimproved value (UV), to reflect the cost of services provided to those properties.

There has long been debate between councillors on inequities of the rating method applied to rural properties with a review of that method pending for several years.

Cr Rod Henderson expressed frustration at the lack of progress on the review stating the issue had been a “pain in [his] side”.

“Again, I was disappointed we’ve had a long time since the Minister’s letter advising us how to proceed and this hasn’t progressed,” he said.

“It means we’ll skip through another cycle of rates where it’s not going to be addressed.

“It does have to be addressed and I suspect we will see lots of submissions in response from the UV inequity we see.”

The City imposed a zero per cent rate rise in 2020/21 and 2021/22 after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and the State Government declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency.

Staff said the City was again proposing a zero per cent increase on the 2021/22 rates yield considering the “continuous financial impact of the pandemic on the community”.

Councillors supported the advertisement of the differential rates and minimum rate for the 2022/23 financial year 9/2 with Crs Aaron Bowman and Jennifer Catalano against.

Public comment on the differential rates can be emailed to swan@swan.wa.gov.au or lodged in person at the City’s Administration Centre, 2 Midland Square.

By Claire Ottaviano

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