Sutherland Shire Council to seek special rates variation for apartments and units

The number of units and apartments in the shire has grown to more than 20,000 in recent years. Picture: John Veage
The number of units and apartments in the shire has grown to more than 20,000 in recent years. Picture: John Veage

Updated

Sutherland Shire Council has moved to increase rates for more than 20,000 apartment and unit owners by nearly $300 a year.

The council took less than three minutes to make the decision at a special meeting on Monday night.

The motion, which was moved by deputy mayor Steve Simpson (independent) and seconded by Cr Peter Scaysbrook (Labor) was carried unanimously.

None of the councillors, including Liberal mayor Carmelo Pesce, who is usually at the forefront of council announcements, spoke in support of the move.

It was left to unelected council staff to argue the case in a written statement, released later.

The decision followed an earlier deal between councillors behind closed doors.

A similar deal last year that would have involved a special rate variation for all ratepayers came unstuck at the last minute.

The council will advise the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of a “possible intention to request a Special Rate Variation” for 2019-20, which would flow on to following years.

The proposed variation would increase the minimum rate, which is paid by unit and apartment owners, from $602.30 to $900.

About 1500 business properties also pay the minimum rate.

Rates for all other properties would rise by the 2.7 per cent limit set by the state government.

​Community consultation on the proposal will take place.

Council staff will also prepare a report “on the most appropriate method to address hardship cases, with specific consideration for war widows”.

The council estimates the increase in the minimum rate will generate an additional $7.255 million per year.

The council statement, which was prepared in advance, said feedback would be sought from the community about the proposed increase for units and apartments “to address the rising costs of power, the need to maintain and renew community assets and provide services into the future”.

“Units or apartments pay substantially less than detached house owners across Sutherland Shire,” the statement said.

“A recent independent community survey found that a large majority of residents believed the amount of rates paid to council should be fair between units or apartments and houses.

“There are currently over 20,000 unit or apartment owners paying the current minimum rate of $602.30.

“This is significantly lower than comparative minimum rates in similar beach or bayside suburbs.

“Under the proposed model, the minimum rate paid by unit and apartment owners would increase to $900.

“We need to be responsible now in planning for financial sustainability and considering our current rates model is a key part of this.

“We will also look into ways to address our long-term financial position, such as ongoing efficiency improvements, user fees and charges and asset consolidation.”

The statement said the council would “look at the best way we can support the most vulnerable members of our community”.

“We currently offer pensioners a voluntary rate rebate and will consider further rebates to for those suffering hardship to reduce the impact of any potential rate increase.

“Over the coming months, we will undertake extensive community consultation and provide opportunities for feedback on the rate model.”