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Rate rage

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Patrick Goldsmith, Yorke Peninsula Country Times

More than 60 Yorke Peninsula primary producers concerned about next financial year’s rating model spilled out of the public gallery and into the foyer at a Yorke Peninsula Council workshop last Wednesday, February 14.

The attendees were mobilised by a Facebook post made in, at least, the Weavers Ag Bureau group which encouraged them to attend the workshop.

“Councillor Roger Johns spoke to me this morning regarding the council proposing to double the rates for primary producers to raise revenue then they can give a discount to shack owners and town home owners,” the post read.

“There are only four councillors that have a farming background so this will go through unless there is some objection.

“Roger (Johns) has asked for as many farmers as possible to attend tonight’s council meeting at 5.30pm in the Minlaton Town Hall to show this is not acceptable.

“Please attend if you can and share with as many people as possible. If you would like any more information call Tania Stock.”

However, as explained at the workshop, council has no plans to double the rates paid by primary producers.

Instead, finance staff presented rates models for primary producers paying a potential 60 to 80 per cent of the residential rate in the dollar with general increase of 6.5 per cent.

By comparison, the average primary production rate in the dollar is 85 per cent of the residential rate across 40 regional councils in South Australia.

Within the YPC area, primary production land currently contributes 40 per cent of rateable income but represents 68 per cent of the valuations; residential property contributes 52 per cent of income but represents 28 per cent of valuations.

While decisions can’t be made at workshops, YPC won’t finalise its eventual 2024-25 rates model until final property valuations are lodged in June.

Primary producers in the Adelaide Plains, Light Regional, Port Pirie, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Copper Coast council areas currently pay at least double the rate in the dollar of YPC farmland owners.

YPC manager financial services Daniel Griffin said council’s rate review is about achieving a more equitable rating structure and recouping lost money through the federal government’s Financial Assistance Grants.

Grants are provided to every council and are determined by its capacity to generate its own income.

“There’s an equity issue and it is seen most clearly by the Grants Commission who distribute Financial Assistance Grants to councils,” Mr Griffin said.

“They’ve seen, through our land valuations, we have the capacity to rate one of our land classifications higher, and therefore they’ve decided to cut our general-purpose grant funding year on year since 2016-17.

“We’re currently sitting at $303,000 less per annum than we received in 2016-17.”

Cr Johns said he is concerned council’s reliance on grants is the only driving force for upping primary production rates.

“I’m curious that the driver for the primary production catch-up is mainly justified by trying to achieve more grants,” he said.

“Have we considered weaning ourself off the reliance on these grants and doing an equal increase for everybody?

“I’m pretty sceptical about some of the grants we try and achieve.”

Council will revisit the issue in coming months before nominating a preferred model and arranging official public consultation on the matter.

Yorke Peninsula Country Times 20 February 2024

This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 20 February 2024.



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