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Bill changes could cripple rural Councils

Victoria’s 38 small rural Councils will suffer a significant financial blow if the State Government goes ahead with changes proposed in the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill this week, according to Rural Councils Victoria (RCV).

Part 9 of the Bill proposes changes to the Valuation of Land Act 1960 that would see land valuations for rating and tax purposes undertaken annually.

The peak body representing Victoria’s 38 rural councils said the switch to annual valuations could further cripple the financial sustainability of Victoria’s small rural Councils. Victoria’s 38 rural councils make up 79 per cent of Victoria’s land area and are already facing cost pressures to deliver essential services and facilities to their communities.

RCV’s Chair Cr Rob Gersch said that rural councils can’t absorb the costs associated with annual property valuations.

“As an example, Campaspe Shire Council estimates the additional cost to Council of yearly valuations at about $153,000 per annum before objections and supplementary valuations. For Pyrenees Shire Council it’s $85,000 and Northern Grampians Shire Council it’s $68,000. For each council that’s the equivalent of a 0.4 — 1.1 per cent rate increase and that is after the State Revenue Office has paid its 50 per cent share,” he said.

“This proposal presents a significant financial burden to small councils already limited to a 2 per cent rate rise cap. It is also another impost on councils with small rate bases that are facing increasing cost pressures to maintain local roads, bridges and other essential community services.”

As an alternative Cr Gersch urged the State Government to consider 4-year valuations for rural councils.

“The Municipal Association of Victoria has stated that four-yearly valuations could save rural councils the equivalent of a 1 to 2 per cent rate increase. Those councils could reinvest that money back into local services or vital road upgrades.

“We’re calling on the State Government to properly consult the sector before making changes that could further cripple our financial sustainability.”

Rural Councils Victoria (RCV) represents 38 rural councils across Victoria, which collectively generate one quarter of Victoria’s Gross State Product and employment. The combined population of these local government areas is 740,000 or fifteen per cent of Victoria’s total population.

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