The great rates debate returns to Bayside

Bayside's rates harmonisation proposal will be debated again at next month's council meeting after councillors lodged a rescission motion.
Bayside's rates harmonisation proposal will be debated again at next month's council meeting after councillors lodged a rescission motion.

The Bayside Council rates harmonisation proposal will go back to the council for a second debate after three councillors lodged a rescission motion.

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

This will mean rates will decrease for ratepayers in the former Rockdale Council area but increase for ratepayers in the former Botany Council Area.

The council's decision was condemned in State Parliament this week by MP for Heffron, Ron Hoenig, whose electorate includes the former Botany Council LGA.

He said rather than the 32 per cent increase in the average rate stated by the council, some ratepayers could be facing increases of up to 51 per cent.

"The council, under the pretence of harmonisation of council rates across the amalgamated council area, determined a massive increase in rates to residents in my electorate," Mr Hoenig said.

"All eight Liberal and Independent councillors voted in favour of this plan, which will see rates increase on average by between 28 per cent and 51 per cent from 1 July 2021.

"All seven Labor councillors voted against it. The Liberals did this during a devastating pandemic and the worst recession since the Great Depression when the airlines and universities-which support the employment of many of my constituents-are laying off thousands of workers, as are many other employers across my electorate.

"Voting to increase taxes during a pandemic and a recession at a time of crisis and massive unemployment is outrageous."

He criticised councillors who said the increase would be less than a dollar a week - or less than a cup of coffee.

"Those councillors should look Qantas workers in the eye and tell them the same thing," he said.

Mr Hoenig welcomed the news that councillors led by councillor Christina Curry and Scott Morrissey have lodged a rescission motion that will be considered next month.

"That gives the opportunity for those Liberal councillors to reconsider the significance of what they wish to impose on my community."

Bayside Council considered two scenarios for rates harmonisation.

Under Scenario One, the council would harmonise the ordinary rates (which raises $80 million) plus extend the former Rockdale Council Special Rate Variation (SRV) which raises $13 million, across all Bayside ratepayers.

Under Scenario Two, the council would harmonise the ordinary rates $80 million) across all Bayside ratepayers but retain the SRV for only the former Rockdale ratepayers.

The council voted for Scenario Two.

The current average residential rate for ratepayers in the former Botany Council LGA is $709. Under Scenario Two this will be $904.

Under Scenario One, which would include the SRV, this would be $1064.

Mr Hoenig said the minimum rate for former Botany ratepayers of $553 would be increased by 40 per cent,

The overall total quantum of rates that Bayside Council is collecting is not increasing, Bayside Council director of city performance, Michael Mamo told last week's council meeting.

"There is an increase in rates for those ratepayers from the Botany side of the LGA because of that redistribution and there is a decrease commensurate to that increase on the other side of the LGA," Mr Mamo said.

"The Office of Local Government is drafting legislation for the Minister that deals with the transition of the harmonisation of equalising of rates over a four to five year period and are seeking feedback from councils..

"That draft legislation is expected to be ready in a couple of weeks but the earliest it will be introduced into parliament is April next year.

"If there is a gradual harmonisation of the rates over a number of years, the one side of the LGA would be subsiding the other side of the LGA until they reach parity."

The rate changes will be based on the unimproved land value of property.

For example, when harmonised a $750,000 property, regardless of what former council it is located in, will pay the same amount of rates.

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

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 rescission motion means the rates proposal will be debated again at next month's council meeting.

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