Windsor's Kachan School of...
Council rates and charges set for July rise and if base rate changes those with least will pay more
· 2.5% general increase on your rates from July 1
· plus – 5.0% increase on refuse collection
· plus – 2.5% increased in pump-out cost
· plus – potential additional rates increase for some, drop for others
Reeling from bushfires, floods and Covid? Well, get ready for a hefty Council rates rise from July too, in addition to potential changes to the rating structure which could see those on smaller blocks cop an additional rise while many on acreage or expensive plots see a large drop.
All ratepayers are looking at 5% more added to their domestic refuse collection bill, 2.5% more for pump-out if they have that system, and 2.5% already added to commercial waste disposal.
In addition, the general Council rate rise is expected to add 2.5% to everyone’s rates, though this has not been confirmed with the State government yet.
Councillors voted unanimously to apply for a special rate variation up to 2.5% when the State Government allocated a rate peg of 0.8%.
This is all against a backdrop of soaring 5.1% inflation, the highest since 2009, as official figures for last year just announced last Wednesday show, and more expensive mortgage payments on the way – thanks to an interest rate rise in the middle of this Federal Election campaign.
Put simply, the cost of living is soaring for everyone in the Hawkesbury and now the Council – led by Liberal Mayor Patrick Conolly – looks set to add to the pressure, albeit with an increase just under inflation.
On top of all this, a potential move to a 50% base rate system for rates instead of the current 30% will likely be led by the Liberals and their political bedfellows, and if it goes through – sometime before the July rates rise – that will see additional rises for those with small parcels of land – your typical urban block – and a drop for those on multi-million dollar acreages or expensive land plots.
Thankfully, Council have added a useful tool on their website which allows you to see how your base rate changes if the current 30% base rate moves to 50%, which is on the cards.
Any change to the base rating system is unlikely to happen at the May Council meeting – just days before the Federal Election – with the Council’s General Manager saying given the public exhibition period for the new Operational Plan (see it here), the whole package would likely come back by mid-June for a councillor decision.
Either way, Council rates will increase from July 1.
Since Mayor Conolly used his casting vote to ram through a halving of full Council meetings – there is now one a month instead of 2 – the time to discuss the potential base rate change has narrowed.
The foreshadowed change to the overall rating system was described by Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler at a full meeting of Council as some residents getting, “screwed over in order to pay for people on high value properties. I cannot support that – it is appalling”.
“In South Windsor where many people have really scraped together to afford those properties, they pay more [if the base rate is changed] and 6700 [households] above median [land] value pay less.”
“And Bowen Mountain, with the additional burden of sullage and sewerage costs, and you think you can just slip this past them because they won’t notice, or they just won’t engage because it might be 100 bucks.”
The actual increase on average for a Bowen Mountain resident will be $200 a year extra on their base rate, according to Council’s new rates tool, plus the increase in the rates in general – at least 2.5% – and a 5% rise in bin collection cost, alongside another 2.5% jump in pump-out charges.
Answers to the vexed issue of pump-out costs, which affects almost 800 people across the Hawkesbury, have not progressed these last two years, despite numerous pleas from residents for action from Council on the high cost system, potentially through a subsidy.
Many Bowen Mountain residents, for example, are paying between $400 and $500 a month on their combined rates and sullage charges, and that’s before the upcoming increases.
An online public meeting with the Council and the affected ratepayers suggested by Cllr Mary Lyons-Buckett was voted down by a majority of councillors back in August 2020 and then it took well over a year for Council staff to get a simple report on sullage together and run an extremely small – in terms of reach – online survey with some very basic questions.
There has been no outcome on either the report or the survey and councillors have not pursued the issue further.
End of the day, no action from Council on pump-out costs, and if there has been an approach to the State government about it with a view to achieving some form of compensation – as other councils have done – there has not been any community feedback from the Mayor or Council.
On the potential base rate change, Deputy Mayor, Labor’s Barry Calvert, questioned why it was in the Operational Plan at all.
“I’m a bit surprised that this is in this item in the first place because changing the base rate does not change Council’s income and these documents are all about our income, what we receive, what we pay, rather than about who pays what, which is a different matter altogether.
“I find it difficult to support this motion, maybe that issue needs to be discussed, if so then it should be brought up separately and perhaps even sent to committee to invite members of the public. I’m sure there would be many members of the public who would come along. It’s quite a divisional issue out there in the Hawkesbury community.
“Putting it in here inside something else, it appears to me like we’re slipping it through and it’s not getting the discussion it needs.”
“I understand we can discuss it when it comes back but why not just leave it as it is?”
But Council’s General Manager said this was the correct place for any move on the base rate to be placed and the Liberals on Council, led by Mayor Conolly, previously asked for a brief on rates, clearly with a view to potentially changing the base rate.
Ex-Liberal councillor, now sitting as an independent, Nathan Zamprogno, has made no secret of his desire for a rates base level re-set and even put together a very informative video on it. What he doesn’t say in that video is some residents will be seeing rate increases, though he does include a graph which highlights potential changes.
At the April meeting, Cllr Zamprogno foreshadowed a tilt at changing the base rate.
“There is a new chamber,” he said. “It’s already resolved in principle to change the base and to present the modelling that would affect rates.”
And Mayor Conolly said, “if we want to change it, and a number of councillors have indicated that, then I think it is the honest and upfront thing to do that we exhibit that change. Our intentions are is that we want to look at the rating structure and see whether there is support for a 50% base rate and whether that’s fairer.”
Suburbs potentially seeing rate increases if the base rate changes to 50%, include Bowen Mountain, Bligh Park, Richmond, McGraths Hill, North Richmond, Windsor, South Windsor, Wilberforce and Pitt Town.
Suburbs which will see a drop in rates include Windsor Downs, Oakville and Maraylya, but remember the changes will depend on the land value of your property – the higher the land value the bigger the savings if the base rate goes to 50%, the lower your land value the bigger the increases you will see.
“Nobody is being screwed over,” said Cllr Conolly, “and certainly it won’t be people in South Windsor paying for the people in those high value suburbs. If we move to the average, in Oakville that would be $3077 and in Bowen Mountain it would be $1126.
“It’s not that Bowen Mountain will be paying for Oakville, it would be some reduction in Oakville for an insignificant increase in Bowen Mountain.”
But independent councillor Mary Lyons-Buckett said now was not the time to be adding to residents’ bills because “we know people are battling”.
“This to me is an issue you don’t make Facebook posts about and make memes about people, but this is something we need to do responsibly.”
She said it would be better to look at the base rate next year, pointing out this is a very short council period of two and a half years rather than the usual four years, and this was cramming in potential change without sufficient time to discuss the issue on the chamber.
She also pointed to new and revised land valuations being released at the end of 2022 and said, “we should have that information before making any changes”.
“We need to see more information, and people with lower land values will be paying bigger increases.”
In asking for a tool to be made available – it is here – for residents to check potential changes to their rates if the base rate is changed, Cllr Lyons-Buckett said,
“We want people to see the whole picture because this is going to be very difficult for many families in the Hawkesbury”.
The Operational Plan is on public exhibition here and residents have until May 16 to make public submissions via the website.
You can access the rates tool here
Our site is free, relying on our supporters to operate. Independent journalism is more important than ever, please consider contributing.
Don’t pay so you can read it. Pay so everybody can read it!