Ratepayers have a say on rates

The need to reconcile different rating systems inherited from former municipalities prompted South Australia's City of Playford to undertake extensive community consultation on options for a new system.

Council felt that, as the toughest and most important issue since its inception in 1997, it was vital to have community input. Mayor Marilyn Baker said the two former cities, Elizabeth and Munno Para, had different rating regimes for similar land uses. "This was very unfair to ratepayers and we asked for their views to help sort out the problem," she said.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Jackson said it was important for ratepayers to have their say. "Council rates are always a sensitive issue with ratepayers and Council decided that if there was going to be any change to the rating system, then it must be done in consultation with the ratepayers," he said.

Needing to establish a uniform and fair system across the new City was never going to be an easy task for Council as the two former cities had very different characteristics. While Elizabeth included an established residential base and large industrial base, Munno Para had large tracts of rural land, several rural townships and little industry.

As a result very different rating systems applied. After developing a discussion paper on ratings options, Playford set itself a six month timetable to consult the community and draft a new rating policy for the 1999/2000 financial year.

This involved the distribution of a discussion paper, receiving submissions from the community, conducting public hearings, preparing and distributing a draft policy and, finally, approval.

The new rating policy establishes a fixed basic sum of $300 applying to every property. This accounts for a sum to cover the cost of providing an appropriate level of services and facilities.

This is then topped up by a differential rate in the dollar according to whether a property is residential, commercial, rural or country township. This allows for greater use and impact on services by some ratepayers such as commercial property owners.

As differences in the commercial property rates between the two former Councils are so large, the new rating policy for commercial properties will be phased in over eight years.

Tim Jackson said feedback gained through community consultation has indicated ratepayers believe the new rating policy will be a fairer, more equitable system. The policy will be reviewed annually, and amended if necessary, to keep pace with the times.

For further information contact Tim Jackson, telephone (08) 8254 0222.