No harmony in Bayside Council's rates debate

Tale of two cities: Residents living near Lady Robinsons Beach are paying more in rates than their fellow Bayside ratepayers on the other side of Botany Bay. Picture: Chris Lane
Tale of two cities: Residents living near Lady Robinsons Beach are paying more in rates than their fellow Bayside ratepayers on the other side of Botany Bay. Picture: Chris Lane

Bayside Council will start community consultation this week on its rate harmonisation proposal to equalize the rating structure between the former Rockdale and Botany council areas.

The State Government has given all amalgamated councils, including Bayside, until July 2021 to harmonise their rate structures.

But there was little harmony when the matter was debated at last week's Bayside Council meeting.

Councillor Christina Curry wanted the matter deferred following comments by the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet that indicated the government would consider a gradual phasing in of rate harmonisation over several years.

"There is no way we can consider this recommendation tonight as the situation is unfolding and it would be unjust to put increasing financial pressure on people and families when we are in a pandemic and a recession which is having catastrophic impact on ratepayers and local businesses." she said.

Cr Curry wanted the matter deferred and for a delegation from impacted councils to seek a meeting with the Minister for Local Government calling for the rate harmonisation to be deferred for 12 months.

But Cr Petros Kalligas said it was a matter of what is equitable in terms of the mix of rates across the old Rockdale and Botany City Councils.

"Effectively, if we don't proceed with harmonisation we are asking for one side of the city to subsidise the other side," he said.

"If we are one unified city it makes perfect sense that we have a consistent rate structure across the entire city.

"There is no overall increase in terms of the rates we are going to be generating across the city. There is going to be change in terms that two-thirds of the city will be receiving a rate reduction.

"In respect of one-third of the city which will get a rate increase, those residents should be very upset.

"But the people to be upset with are the people who ran Botany City Council. The fact is that the increase is owing to the previous mismanagement of the former Botany Council."

Cr Scott Morrisey, who lives in Botany, said his rates would increase by 100 per cent over four years.

"What we are talking about is that in the current environment we are going to have the highest rate increase in the state for 30 per cent of our population," he said.

"It is an unfair burden on 30 per cent of residents. Two-thirds of residents will get a reduction but one-third are going to have a 100 per cent increase over four years. How is that equitable? We have to look after all of our residents. We have to have a fair representation.

"The State Government wants to raise the rates, not us. But we are the ones who have to do it.

"This is the same government that forced amalgamations and now they are forcing us to do their dirty work."

Cr Tarek Ibrahim said in the end reality is that a third of the people of the LGA will be paying increased rates.

Cr Liz Barlow said that a 32 per cent increase works out at about $4 a week on the average rate.

And Cr Michael Nagi said the rate harmonisation is mandated.

"We can't escape it. It is going to happen. We need to go to residents now," he said.

But Cr Curry stressed, "We have a situation which is unfolding. It would be unjust for us to go out to the community with a proposal which we are not sure about what will happen."

If adopted, the rate changes will be based on the unimproved land value of property.

Following rate harmonisation, a $750,000 property, regardless of whether it was located in the former Rockdale or Botany LGA, will pay the same amount of rates, according to a statement released by the council.

"This is currently not the case. The average residential rate for Rockdale is $1,164, compared to Botany's average of $709," according to the council statement.

"The current minimum rates are $768 for Rockdale and $553 for Botany.

"Once implemented, all Bayside ratepayers will pay the same for their rates depending on the value of their land."

The council voted eight to seven for it to go out to consultation which will commence on September 14 for a period of eight weeks.