If you believe the latest political campaign press release from the Office of the Mayor’s media team, a new round of land valuations for Noosa properties are a Council rates time bomb set to go off soon, and it’s all the Queensland Government’s fault.
This is part of what they trumpetted this week.
Noosa Council will lobby the state government for a review of Queensland’s rating system to lessen the financial impact that dramatic land value increases are having on ratepayers.
Mayor Clare Stewart said the Queensland Valuer-General’s latest valuations for Noosa have seen many land values double in 12 months.
“If we simply feed the Valuer-General’s new valuations into our rating structure our ratepayers face average increases of around 44% – before CPI – at a time when many in our community can ill afford it,” the Mayor said.
Cr Stewart has requested a meeting with the state’s Resources Minister, Scott Stewart, to call for changes.
In Queensland, under the Local Government Act, councils calculate rates as a percentage of land values, as assessed by the state’s valuer, the Valuer-General.
“It’s not just owners of properties in the more expensive areas facing increases, it’s homeowners right across the shire who have seen their land valuations jump by more than 50%,” Mayor Stewart said.Noosa Council Media Release
It’s a while since I’ve heard something with such a hollow ring to it. This is why.
Bear with me on this brief bit of maths. It won’t take long.
The previous land revaluations were fed into the general rate at budget time last year with no concern expressed about the effect on the community.
Council knew that total general rates the year before were $59.5 million. CPI was 5.1%, but Council didn’t really need an increase because they had millions sitting unused in banks. Council had also received unprecedented capital revenue grants of around $20 million from State and Federal Governments over the last couple of years.
Just to make this clear; spare cash was sloshing around the boots of our Council. It was an embarrassment of riches.
So what did they do with general rates? They raised the take to a total of $66 million, an increase of 11%. And that wasn’t caused by the large new land valuations, the increase the year before was 14% when there was no revaluation.
Not satisfied with that raid on ratepayers last year, they then increased the environment levy by 14%, the transport levy by 33%, the heritage levy by 70%, and introduced a new ‘Bushfire Resilience and Response’ levy based on land valuations. All this on top of the 11% increase in general rates revenue.
Fast forward to this week’s confected outrage about new land valuations pressuring our Council to jack up rates again. What’s changed? Well, last year there was no election looming. Now there is, less than 12-months away.
So let’s discount the political context of this noise and give our friends in Pelican Street a message. Your general rates levy for this year’s budget was a total of $66 million. You can keep it at $66 million for next financial year if you want to. That’s right, the new land valuations do not prevent you from giving ratepayers a pause. Instead, how about using some of the excess ratepayers’ money that you didn’t need to levy over the last two years.
Yes, all ratepayers might not end up with the same percentage change from their current general rates because of relative land valuation changes. Some rates could go down, some could go up.
But increases would be tiny compared to many last year, despite the ‘dramatic land value increases’.
For this financial year Council deliberately adjusted valuation thresholds and rates in the dollar so that 12,475 ratepayers copped increases between 5% and 40% as this graphic shows.
As to “lobbying the Resources Minister”, large land valuation increases are nothing new. The most an approach on this issue will get is probably no more than a cup of tea from the Minister. Unless the Council can recommend a viable alternative that’s never been suggested before, the lobbying announcement qualifies as ‘politicking’.
This comment on the local Facebook page Residents For Noosa summed it up elequently.
Finally, let’s return to that bit about “Councillors … committed to keeping rate rises to a minimum”. I understand staff use a consultant these days to do the number crunching to provide a Schedule of Rates that determines how much revenue Council gets and how much individual properties are levied. If they’re having trouble keeping rates to a minimum (and going by the last two Budgets they clearly have), they could always engage me as a consultant. I can guarantee the result.
This year, my bet is that – sabre rattling and finger-pointing aside – our Council will find a way to actually deliver on that promise of keeping rates to a minimum. Why, I hear you ask?
I’d like to think it’s partly because Noosa Matters has helped ratepayers focus on that huge increase of over 20% in the rates grab by Noosa Council in the last couple of years, and the fact that they haven’t gone close to spending it.
But more to the point, there’s a Council election due in less than 12 months. Nothing focuses the mind of some elected representatives more than that.