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A Fairer Rating System across the Northern Beaches

By Northern Beaches Council
Posted: 17 Dec 2020
The Northern Beaches community is being encouraged to comment on options for how the Council will harmonise residential and business rates, a requirement of the NSW Government by 1 July 2021.

Rates harmonisation provides a fair and equitable approach to rates collection, ensuring those with the same land value within the same category or sub-category, pay the same for the same level of Council service.

For the first four years of amalgamation, Councils were required to stay on the existing rates paths of their former Council areas.

The effect of that is rates are still being charged three different ways, with the former Warringah area contributing a higher income percentage as a proportion of land values, followed by the former Pittwater area and then the former Manly area.

Mayor Michael Regan said the State Government’s harmonisation directive would inevitably mean some changes for ratepayers. Under the weighted average scenario on public exhibition, 76 per cent of residential ratepayers would see their rates decrease and 62 per cent of businesses.

“This is a challenging process for us as we know the current system is simply unfair - with so many ratepayers paying more than others despite having the same land value,” Mayor Regan said.

“Getting the balance right has been, and is, a challenge, and now we are in a position for the community to have a look at the options created and have their say.

“Council has spent considerable time modelling various scenarios and the community will see that whether you use any of the three former Council rating structures, or a new one, there are unavoidable impacts for some ratepayers who have been paying less than others for a number of years now.

“It’s important to note that this exercise does not mean Council collects more rates. Where there is a proposed increase for one ratepayer, there is a decrease for another so the Council bottom line remains the same due to the harmonisation process.”

Rates is one item on a residential rates notice - waste management charges also apply as do various other State levies. The waste management charges have already been gradually harmonised and both the former Pittwater and Manly ratepayers have seen significant reductions due to that process. In fact, for the current financial year (2020/21) the average Manly residential ratepayer will have had a lower rates notice than before amalgamation.

Mayor Regan said he had been actively advocating to the State Government for a legislative change to ensure no ad valorem ratepayer sees a greater than 10 per cent increase in any one year due to the harmonisation process.

“In the COVID-19 economic climate in particular, we understand any increase may be difficult for ratepayers. It is why I have spent months advocating to the NSW Government to legislate for a gradual harmonisation process.

“No one wants to see ratepayers hit with sudden large increases, and the NSW Local Government Minister has been very receptive to this argument.

“We are confident gradual harmonisation will be put to the NSW Parliament in the new year so it can be implemented next financial year, which is a great outcome.”

As part of this process Council is also taking the opportunity to harmonise the former three council area pensioner concession policies, stormwater charges and refining the hardship policy to include harmonisation as a consideration for hardship provisions.

“We are proposing to apply the most generous of the former three Council’s pensioner concessions (Warringah) to all eligible pensioners.

“Further, we are asking ratepayers to choose whether to lose the modest stormwater charge currently being applied to former Manly and Pittwater ratepayers or to apply it to all ratepayers to extend our extensive clean water initiatives and stormwater drainage system upgrades.

“The cost of that per household is minimal (max $25) but has a significant positive impact, especially given the age of the existing infrastructure,” Cr Regan said.

Council is consulting until 7 February 2021 and the community is encouraged to have their say. Both face-to-face and online briefings for residents and business are available and an online calculator so individuals can input their address to see any proposed impacts.

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