22 August 2012
Waipa District Council has confirmed that rural-residential ratepayers are bearing the brunt of rate increases, but has rubbished claims that spending is out of control.
In June this year, council set the total increase in the amount of rates it collects at 4.3 per cent for the 2012/13 year. Around 58 per cent of property owners in the district have seen their rates either decrease (13 per cent) or increase by less than five per cent.
A third of properties have seen rates rises of between 5 – 15 per cent. Around seven percent of properties have had a rates increase of greater than 15 percent.
Three main issues were driving the larger than average increases for some properties. But “out of control” spending wasn’t one of them.
Firstly, properties in the Waipa district were independently revalued by Quotable Value New Zealand in August 2011 as required by law. The revaluations resulted in large variances in property values which directly impact on rates. This year, while many rural-residential properties decreased in value, other property values dropped even more.
Secondly, changes to the revenue and financing policy pushed costs for museums and swimming pools back to those communities who used them most. That impacted on properties in the Te Awamutu ward more than others.
And thirdly some properties with larger-than-average rate increases, including rural-residential properties, did not receive the reduction in water and wastewater charges that others across the district received.
Mayor Alan Livingston said these factors combined with other policy changes have impacted significantly on some ratepayers.
“ There’s no question they’re hurting. But for many people their rates rise is close to, or less than, what has always been signaled in council’s plans.”
There was no question that rural-residential properties, particularly around Te Awamutu, had been “hit hardest”, he said..
“The effect of revaluations does make it very tough for those ratepayers,” he said. “The same thing happened to dairy farms in 2008 but there’s very little council can do about it. Property owners whose property values went down, and who might be looking to sell, are just as unhappy.”
Claims that Council was increasing its rates revenue by 12.1 per cent and that there were “enormous increases” in spending were simply rubbish.
“In March this year, we said clearly that we would need to collect around $42.2 million in rates to pay for planned services and activities. That equated to a rates rise of about 4.9 per cent,” he said.
“After feedback from the community, the rates rise was reduced to 4.3 per cent. This financial year we will collect $2.7 million less in rates than we predicted in 2009. ”
Mr Livingston said despite that, ratepayers still expected high levels of services.
“But we can’t have it both ways. If people want lower rates at all costs, there will be services and facilities they must be prepared to reduce or go without. While nothing can be done to reduce rates this financial year the public will have the opportunity to have their say during the Annual Plan process early next year.”
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