Special Rate to be replaced

COUNCIL will replace its Special Rate with a more equitable rating system after Councillors voted to adopt changes to the rate on Tuesday, December 20.

The Commercial/Industrial Special Rate will be replaced by a Commercial/Industrial Differential Rate commencing from the 2012/13 budget.

The Special Rate was introduced around 15 years ago to fund tourism and economic development opportunities.

Chief Executive Officer Ian Nicholls said since its introduction, there has been continued concern with the Special Rate.

“In response, Council developed a draft Differential Policy and placed it on public display in November,” he said.

“The key considerations of any rating review must be equity, clarity, simplicity, ease of understanding and fair application.

“Most councils apply a higher differential rate to Commercial and Industrial properties in recognition of the higher service levels they receive compared with properties in rural and residential zones.

“By making these changes, Council will be making the rating system more equitable and easier to understand.”

Eight submissions were received during the public exhibition period, seven of which were from tourism-related ratepayers.

Mr Nicholls said the suggestion had been raised that the rate be removed altogether.

“It has been suggested that we scrap the Special Rate and not replace it with a Differential Rate, just keep the General Rate,” he said.

“However, if we were to do that, to make up the shortfall of funds from the Special Rate the General Rate would need to go up by around 10 per cent.

“Every ratepayer would carry that burden, even if they live in an area that does not benefit from the same services as Commercial and Industrial zones.”

Mr Nicholls said concerns that tourism funding would suffer once funds were no longer quarantined for that purpose were unfounded.

“At the moment only around 40 per cent of the tourism budget is funded from the Special Rate – the remaining 60 per cent comes from General Rates,” he said.

“We are very aware of the importance of tourism to the livelihood of the Alpine Shire.”

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