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Council admits rates overcharge

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By Kate Taylor

It’s taken twenty-two years, but a man overcharged a total of $14,000 on his rates notice has finally been refunded by Moorabool Shire Council.

And still… it’s not the full amount, according to Gary Salt’s calculations.

Mr Salt bought his vacant 6.3Ha bush block at Coimadai 22 years ago, with the intention of building on it; but when council red-tape became too much, he gave up and built in nearby Gisborne instead.

He did, however, keep the Coimadai block.

Then, one day in 2002, he thought the rates were a bit much, so he looked over the details of the notice – including the size of his property.

“It was listed as 13Ha,” Mr Salt said. “But it’s 6.3Ha.”

It would be the same for all of his rates notices up until this year – well, almost the same. Actually, the only part that was the same was the overcharging.

‘It was listed as 13Ha, and when I questioned it they put it down to 8.24Ha. but then, over the years, it appeared as 13ha again.

It’s not the only figure that kept bouncing up and down, either.

“One year it was valued at $116,000 – then it went up to $240,000. And then it went back down to $151,000, back in 2005.”

Last week, Mr Salt says council offered him a refund of $3,700 – but that it’s a figure far less than his calculation of $14,000, having gone back through his rates notices since 2002, which in itself is not as long as the overcharging is thought to have occurred.

The offer also came after Mr Salt had engaged a solicitor to deal with council on the issue, as he himself had got nowhere with it for so many years.

“It was quite a difficult and long process – we first told them back in 2002. They never admitted guilt, up until last week they had said it was my fault.”

The Moorabool News viewed email correspondence between council and Mr Salt, in which council seeks to rectify the long-standing error.

“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the error that has occurred,” the council email read.

“Your recent valuation objection resulted in a 47 per cent decrease to the capital improved value associated with your property.  Based on this adjustment, Council has made the same reduction to the properties valuations back to the

2008/2009 financial year, which is where Council believes the error dates back to.”

The issue remains at a $3,700 – $14,000 stalemate.

More than anything, Mr Salt said it is a reminder for ratepayers to get out their reading glasses and check the smaller figures on the rates notice, including property size.

“If you don’t agree with it, then you should question it – because in this case, it was the size of the land that was wrong.”