By Lachlan Ellis
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has flagged major concerns over farmers’ rates in Moorabool Shire Council’s upcoming draft budget, citing “an average farm rate increase of over 16 per cent”.
In a media release, the VFF expressed its frustration at the proposed increase, urging Council to apply any rates increases more fairly among different types of ratepayers.
VFF President Emma Germano said the proposed increase was yet another blow to farmers by Council, which has been “unable to set a flexible rating strategy”.
“Disappointingly Moorabool Shire Council has yet again decided to force a greater rate burden onto the shire’s agricultural sector with a proposed 16.84 per cent increase to the average farm rate assessment,” Ms Germano said.
“As this is a particularly busy time for farmers in the region with crops being sown, the VFF is concerned that many local farmers will be oblivious to Council’s proposed rate hike. They therefore have little ability to be consulted.
“The increase represents significant rates shock for farmers and will hurt business growth and productivity which are ultimately needed to help create local jobs, and to help protect farm businesses into the future. It also represents one of the highest farm rate increases across all Victorian rural and regional councils for the year ahead.”
Adding insult to injury, Ms Germano said, was that while farmers will see their rates increase by over 16 per cent on average, “residential ratepayers will see no change to the average rate assessment under Council’s proposed budget”.
“This is a manifestly unfair and inequitable position that Council is choosing to take. As the VFF has suggested to Council in previous consultations on its budget and rating strategies, a dynamic rating strategy must be adopted that sees the active use of differential rating powers to counteract the valuation asymmetries between different property classes,” she said.
“This system has been successfully employed by other Councils such as Ararat, Mansfield and Pyrenees.”
Central Ward Councillor Paul Tatchell has been perhaps the most ardent opponent to the ‘Fair Go Rates System’ at Moorabool Shire Council, the name of which he says is “a masquerade that shifts the blame to local government”.
“This certainly exposes the Fair Go Rates System for what it really is. The State Government have said they’re going to review the system, but they haven’t done anything. It’s all about money, they’re addicted to collecting taxes in one form or another,” he told the Moorabool News.
“It’s pretty disgusting. This is my eleventh year of trying to get fairness and equity into rural rates, and I’m continually outvoted…we have third, fourth, fifth generation farmers who are hanging on. Our farmers are saying ‘Why are you picking on us? Why do you continually go after us for the big spend?’
“Their costs have gone through the roof. It’s a tough business, they’ve gone through a lot of problems. Fertiliser costs have gone through the roof, the prices aren’t stable, and interest rates have gone through the roof for farmers just like everybody else.”
Councillors will vote on whether to adopt their Budget at the Unscheduled Meeting of Council on Wednesday 17 May.