A revaluation time bomb, or just hollow outrage ?

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.


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Since the Stewart cartel has been in office development is out out of control our once peaceful Noosa has turned into a ghetto invaded by southerners , the streets are congested and a total disregard for road rules by the newcomers ,the wages of council executives has increased placing a burden on the financial system, the double rate rise is a grab for money thus putting stress upon the rate payers without any improvement to services ,I won’t be voting for anyone in the present council in the next election

  2. Avatar

    As the article and previous comments have indicated, it is a relatively simple process for Council to reduce the rate per dollar of rateable land value charged, so as to minimise the impact of the increased land assessments issued by the Valuer General. They do it every year in their budgets, depending on how much money they need to raise.

    In addition, the Council has the further ability to lessen the impact of these increased assessments under the Local Government Act (Chapter 4 Part 3 Section 74) by averaging the rateable land value over a period of time as follows:
    “Value of land used for rates
    Rateable value of land
    (1) A local government must calculate the rates for land by using
    the rateable value of the land.
    (2) The rateable value of land for a financial year is the value of
    the land—
    (a) for the financial year; or
    (b) as averaged over a number of financial years.
    (3) A local government may use the value of the land averaged
    over a number of financial years only if the local government
    decides, by resolution, to do so.”

    But the Council ‘must want’ to do this and not just sit by and blame the State Government. And with the upcoming Council elections next year, I’m sure they will do their best to minimise the increases.

  3. Avatar

    Further to my earlier comment, it seems the “simple maths” is not quite so simple here with a minimum rate making things a bit more complicated, but it would still be in council’s power to limit rate revenue to the previous year or allow for a modest CPI increase. We shall see…

  4. Avatar

    Well said Noel and yes, it’s simple maths – if the overall valuation increase was 60 percent, council could reduce the rate by 60 percent and raise the same amount of revenue. Residents whose valuation increased by 60 percent would pay the same, anyone below that would pay less and anyone above the average increase would pay more. But in just about all the places I’ve lived, councils use valuation increases as a means of increasing revenue. We’ll see what happens here in Noosa.

  5. Avatar

    My rates went up over 15 % last year and I got 0 % change in services provided. I got more Council staff, staff wage increases, a CEO who vanished after employing a few more expensive Directors, Council grandstanding by involving itself in State and Federal Govt responsibilities and not much else from Pelican street. As I understand it, no-one or rule of law forces Council to automatically raise rates to match valuation increases. Why the “noise”? ………John Duke

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