Rate cap for Victorian councils set at 2.25 per cent

VICTORIA’S Essential Services Commission (ESC) has capped council rate increases for the 2018-19 financial year at 2.25 per cent.

Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz announced the decision on December 21, saying “the days of ratepayers being hit with year-on-year rate hikes were over”.

She said the government’s Fair Go rates system [introduced in 2015] was encouraging “Victoria’s councils to produce financial plans that take into account the long-term needs of their communities”.

Council reaction to the announcement was mixed. Ballarat City Mayor Samantha McIntosh said that although the cap was .25 per cent higher than the previous financial year, it would only add a small amount to council coffers.

“With that degree of capping it will still mean we have to review the services we currently provide,” she said.

Greater Shepparton City Council chief executive officer Peter Harriott described the rate cap as manageable, but well below operational costs.

Mr Harriott said the figure was workable, but it would mean the council would again need to review ‘‘every line item’’ and look at a range of areas where efficiencies could be made.

Complicating matters further was the fact that Greater Shepparton was a growing municipality, and having to do more with less.

He said the council’s capacity to increase resources to look after roads, kerbs, channels and parks was diminishing.

“The longer we go with rate capping … the bigger the gap gets, the harder it gets each year,’’ he said.

Victoria’s 79 councils have until January 31 to notify the ESC of their intention to apply for a variation from the rate cap, and until 31 March 2018 to lodge their application.