Friday, July 31, 2009

Rates rise points to need for broader debate about council revenues

“How about royalties for recycling and renewables!”

Rates rise points to need for a broader debate about council revenues

Community activist and candidate for the Hilton Ward, Sam Wainwright, suggested that the foreshadowed 8.5% rate hike should be the spark for broader debate about the Fremantle Council’s sources of revenue and whether the state government should bare some of the cost associated with the SMRC Resource Recovery Centre. He said, “If such a rise really is necessary to cover council expenses then we need to have a bit of debate about how rates are calculated; whether Notre Dame University is paying its way in respect of the council facilities it uses; and to ask if the state government is shirking its responsibilities.”

Wainwright continued, “5% of the increase is to cover the rising cost of the SMRC Resource Recovery Centre that services a huge swathe of greater Perth. It’s only fair that the state government help share the cost. Waste management and recycling need to be planned like the delivery of other utilities such as water and sewerage. I think metropolitan councils also have a fair claim on a greater slice of state government revenues.”

“This is the problem with the National Party’s ‘Royalties for Regions’ pork-barrelling exercise. It’s doing nothing to fix urgent problems in the bush like the collapse of the country rail network while also cutting needy urban projects out of the picture. How about we have royalties for recycling and renewables!”

He added, “We also have to ask if Notre Dame University is really paying its way. The university is exempt from paying rates but relies on a whole range of council services and facilities that other universities would pay for themselves. This is not to deny that the university brings a lot of good things to Fremantle. But the fact remains that the residents and businesses of Fremantle are effectively providing a public subsidy to a private institution.”

“Every time the university buys another property it further undermines the revenue base of the council while increasing its demand on council services. Under its deal with the council Notre Dame only pays a token amount in recognition of its demand on council services. I think it should pay a civic amenity fee equivalent to the rates it would otherwise pay.”

Regarding the issue of rates Wainwright said, “The current way we calculate rates may be simple, but apart from the pensioner discount, it takes no real account of peoples capacity to pay. For people who own their own homes but who are on low fixed incomes or who have heavy mortgages, rising property values and rates are a real problem. We don’t want to price these people out of their homes. Can we devise a system that imposes higher rates on higher value properties but that is at the same time is coupled with a ceiling or other form of discount for residents on low incomes?”

For more comment contact Sam Wainwright: 0412 751 508

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