Gladstone Regional Council pictured before handing down the 2019-20 budget in July this year.
Gladstone Regional Council pictured before handing down the 2019-20 budget in July this year.

'Little win': Residents petition for change to rates

GIVING residents an extra 30 days to pay their rates at a discounted price does not address the concerns from thousands struggling to make ends meet, a Tannum Sands ratepayer said.

Just two months after paying for her 2018 rates, Jo Cuthbertson received this year's rates bill which was more than $500 higher than the previous year.

Ms Cuthbertson says she's not alone in her struggle to pay the annual bill, with 4000 people signing her petition labelling this year's average rate rise of 2.39 per cent a "disgrace".

She plans to present the petition to council at the next general meeting on Tuesday, September 3 and also hopes to create a ratepayers' association.

In response to the petition, Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett announced on Monday he would put forward a motion at next Tuesday's meeting to have the discount payment period extended for 30 days.

Cr Burnett said yesterday that Gladstone's minimum general rate was the second lowest of category 4 and 5 coastal and regional councils.

Ms Cuthbertson said while the extension was a "little win", more needed to be done.

"Land valuations are going down, and we're not seeing anything extra in the services we do receive from the council who are charging this astronomical amount," she said.

"It's a little win, but they still haven't addressed the issues that the community has ... there's a lot more to be answered for.

"People in this area were fighting to stay in our own homes during the boom because prices went through the roof, and those who fought to stay are now being slugged."

After receiving last year's rates bill Ms Cuthbertson decided pay her rates incrementally, and made the final payment in June this year.

Ms Cuthbertson said a ratepayers' association would help hold the council to account on spending and facilitate better communication between the council and residents.

"We want to know why rates are constantly going up," she said.

"We want to know an absolute breakdown on what they're spending."

Responding to comparisons with Brisbane City Council, Cr Burnett said the size, scale and services provided were very different.

"The distribution of property values typically fluctuates from year to year ... The relatively fixed cost of providing adequate services, combined with uneven levels of property value changes, explains why a drop or a rise in a property's value doesn't necessarily result in an associated drop or rise in its rates," he said.

He said the council welcomed enquiries about rates and it publishes its budget, corporate and operational plans on its website to maintain total transparency. The council estimates the gross value of rates levied in 2019/20 is $151.89 million, compared to $146.85 million last year, an increase of 3.44 per cent.



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