Council to review how rates are set

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Former Shire of Denmark deputy president John Sampson.
Camera IconFormer Shire of Denmark deputy president John Sampson.

Former Shire of Denmark councillor John Sampson has called for an apology from the Shire’s current leadership for a “marked imbalance” in the 2019-20 rates increase.

He asked a series of questions about the rate rise at last month’s council meeting.

He said the Shire’s overall 4 per cent rate rise included a 6.5 per cent increase in gross rental value rates, while unimproved value rates rose by only 1.1 per cent.

“Do the CEO and president agree that there was a serious lack of transparency in advertising a 4 per cent rate rise when the vast majority of ratepayers were subject to a 6.5 per cent-plus increase,” Mr Sampson asked.

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The Shire responded in writing, saying it agreed ratepayers could have been given more information to explain the variation. They said staff struggled to achieve an even increase because of the “highly restrictive nature of the differential rating system”.

“Given the confusion in the community with regard to the current model, the Shire has committed to reviewing the differential rating system in 2019/20,” the Shire said.

“It is envisaged that a simpler system will deliver a model which provides increased levels of community confidence and transparency.”

However, the Shire backed its budget and said that for first time in Denmark’s history, the budget was based on “strategy, data and evidence”.

“The work that the Shire has undertaken in relation to asset management planning, workforce planning and long-term financial planning allows the Shire to assess the impact of each rate increase over a 15- year time horizon,” it said.

Mr Sampson also accused the Shire of a “serious lack of transparency” and asked Shire President Ceinwen Gearon if she felt she had fulfilled her duty of overseeing the budget.

Cr Gearon responded in writing, detailing the Shire’s progress during her tenure. “I think the above achievements reinforce that I have fulfilled the position with great duty and responsibility,” she said.

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