BUDGET TIME: South Burnett Regional Council CEO Mark Pitt and Mayor Keith Campbell discuss the 2019/20 council budget.
BUDGET TIME: South Burnett Regional Council CEO Mark Pitt and Mayor Keith Campbell discuss the 2019/20 council budget. Jessica McGrath

What the rates rise will mean for rural ratepayers

RURAL ratepayers will be feeling the brunt of the South Burnett rates rise again after increased land valuations on top of last year's rate hike.

However, the South Burnett Regional Council has ensured the general rates rise across the next financial year will be limited to 30 per cent for all ratepayers.

The council revealed their 2019/20 budget would feature a 4.04 per cent total change in rates and charges compared to last year.

Mayor Keith Campbell said this would include up to a 1.9 per cent increase of differential general rates.

During their meeting on Monday, the councillors discussed the possibility of keeping the rural rates the same as last year without an increase.

Cr Ros Heit said it was important for the council to support the agricultural industry.

"Last year when we rolled the road levy into the general rates, over 50 per cent of that transition was funded by the rural sector," she said.

More than 140 rural property rates went up by more than $1000 last year, with the majority costing between $3000 and $4000.

Cr Heit said removing the rates increase for rural ratepayers would cost the South Burnett Regional Council's bottom line by $136,000.

"As an Ag region, this is a small price to pay to ensure primary producers we support them and give them a bit of breathing space after the heavy increases that they had last year," she said.

Cr Kathy Duff said she was also concerned about the impact on rural ratepayers.

"When the rural ratepayers are doing it tough, the towns and businesses across our regions are doing it tough because we are an agricultural region," she said.

"The valuations didn't go up evenly around the region, there's huge spikes for rural ratepayers of which I'm concerned about."

Land valuations are used by the council as a guide to determine rates charges.

Queensland valuer-general Neil Bray announced in March the land value of many residential South Burnett towns had decreased.

However, the demand for cattle grazing and crop farming saw the value of rural land in the region increase by 29 per cent.

Cr Campbell said last year's decision to roll-in the road levy into the general rates caused a significant impact on 3500 people, whose rates increased between 30 and 50 per cent.

"When the road levy was introduced it caused a significant amount of pain to a lot of people, the issue is that we as a council represent the whole of our region, not just sections," he said.

Cr Terry Fleisfresser said the move to not increase the rural rates this year would essentially mean they would be 'taking from the poor and giving to the rich.'

"If you give relief to persons who had significant valuation increases, you will take away from a person who has a lesser valuation or static valuation," he said.

The council voted against this suggestion and the rural rates will maintain the rise.

There are 45 different categories of land for general rates, which includes residential land, rural residential, commercial land and industrial land.

Rural land will be made and levied at 1.2458 rate in a dollar for the year ending June 30, 2020.

This means the minimum general rates for rural land will be $1070.

Cr Campbell said the council are currently investigating the possibility of introducing new categories to differentiate between different types of rural ratepayers.

This would possibly include additional categories such as intensive farming, pigs and cattle.

Cr Campbell said they did not have any facts yet regarding this category system.

"If you introduce new categories so some ratepayers are paying less, there are circumstances where others would pay for more," he said.

The council introduced a financial hardship policy for any ratepayers who are in genuine, serious financial hardship, which as a result are willing but unable to pay their rates and charges.

Cr Campbell said this policy was not just for rural producers.

"It's for anybody and everybody who are in genuine financial difficulties, which could be for a number of reasons as we have a very diverse economy here," he said.

Read more about the South Burnett Regional Council's 2019/20 budget here.

South Burnett

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