Waste charges up, but rates cap a saviour

WASTE charges will increase, but Wellington Shire ratepayers have escaped a large rate rise again thanks to the state government’s cap, and can expect an average rise of 2.25 per cent following revaluations throughout the municipality.

Residents will pay $35 more per year for waste services in response to the price increase for recyclables following the China ban that has led to a nationwide recycling crisis.

Acting mayor Ian Bye said Wellington, along with other Victorian councils, had been hit by the sudden change in the market after China announced it would no longer accept co-mingled recyclables.

“As a result, Wellington has had to increase the charge for collecting the fortnightly recycling bin by $35 for the year, which works out to be an extra $1.30 a fortnight,” he said.

“The cost of disposing our waste overall is growing, and it is not acceptable to us or the community that our recycling ends up in landfill.”

Revaluations are carried out every two years to reflect market “relativity” and ensure properties are rated at their most recent value.

It is a statutory requirement set down by the Valuer-General, and must be carried out by an independent contract valuer on behalf of the council.

Ratepayers will be issued notices of valuation advising them of the new valuation figures before the end of the current financial year (2017-18), and will have two months from the date of issue to object.

When ratepayers receive their annual rate notice in August 2018, there will be no further opportunity to object to the valuation.

During the past 12 months, council’s contract valuer has been collecting and collating data to be returned in the form of a total revaluation of all properties within the shire.

The figures included in the valuation are based on the property values as at January 1, 2018.

The council is expecting to be hit by an onslaught of questions about the new valuations, with a council officer’s report noting that “the issue of the notice of valuation will result in a significant number of ratepayer enquiries, and in some cases objections, to the valuation will be lodged by the ratepayer”.

It also noted that the general property valuation and subsequent notice of valuation “is a transparent process” consistent with the strategic objective to maintain a well governed, “transparent, high performing, ethical and accountable” organisation.

At last Tuesday’s council meeting, Cr Alan Hall said rates made up 75 per cent of the adjusted revenue for the council, which was not able to rely on other sources of revenue such as parking.

The meeting also heard that overall, the council was in a healthy financial position, with the total comprehensive surplus for 2018-19 budget to be $9.864 million, partly due to the forward payment of $6.3 million in Commonwealth grants funding.

The council’s efforts to chase up rates debts have also paid off, with the rates debt at end of May at $6.4 million, compared to $7.4 million this time last year.

Council’s cash holding at the end of May was almost $70 million, up by almost $10 million from the same time last year.

The value of properties throughout the shire have risen sharply in recent years, reflecting a statewide trend in rising property prices, with the net annual value of properties having jumped by almost $70,000,000 from $559,185,276 two years ago, to $630,317,861 for 2018.

However, the shire determines its rates from capital improved values, which in the recent revaluation grew more than the level of the rate cap, meaning council had to reduce the rate in the dollar charged to ratepayers.