Candidates: “We need a rates review”

FIVE candidates have called publicly for a rates review, most agree the council needs to cut costs, one says there should be no rates rise next year but no one has promised a rates reduction.

Since the candidates announced their intention to run for council they have been busy listening to the concerns of ratepayers, who evidently agree rates are too high.

In June the council handed down its 2015/2016 budget which included a 4.08% increase in general rates during a year when property values plummetted, particularly for units.

Fees and charges were up too, and despite the council's assurance that 46% of residential property owners' rates went down, the rate rage was rife.

For many residents that rage will carry through to election day, which is why candidates not brave enough to promise a rates reduction are calling for a "rates review".

But rates are already reviewed every year as part of the council's normal functions.

In the lead up to a budget, council officers undergo a rigourous examination of rates including; the general rating categories, the frequency of a rates levy, minimum rates, a rating cap, and charges such as water, sewerage and garbage.

So what are the candidates promising? And is there any room for movement?

The council has already capped rate increases for residential property at 10% and delivered a long term financial plan that states there will be no increases higher than inflation for the next ten years.

However, some candidates say even that's too much.

There is more than one system local governments can use to charge rates, but rates are still the main source of income for councils.

That's an issue also pointed out by some of the candidates who say the council is too reliant on ratepayers to fund infrastructure and services.

But some of the other more common ways of raising revenue, such as loans, developer contributions --- including the hotly debated infrastructure charges --- fees, and charging for council facilities like caravan parks, have been shot down by voters at some point.

That leaves grants and subsidies from the financially strained State and Federal Governments.