City of Wanneroo reviewing its rates after backlash

Since the Premier Mark McGowan asked local governments to freeze their rates due to the Covid-19 pandemic the city’s response has sometimes been out of step with ratepayers. File picture

THE City of Wanneroo says it is reviewing all aspects of its 20-21 Budget, including the proposed rate in the dollar and all related community feedback.

Since the Premier Mark McGowan asked local governments to freeze their rates due to the Covid-19 pandemic the city’s response has appeared out of step with the needs of its ratepayers.

While saying it understands the hardship community members are facing the city’s actions have led to angry ratepayers setting up a Facebook page and a grievance being raised in Parliament.

In Parliament on June 18 Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton asked why Wanneroo residents were staring down the barrel of increases to their rates bills during the pandemic when they were experiencing real and declining house values.

Ms Winton said there had been great relief in the community when the city announced on April 7 that it had resolved to have a 0 per cent increase in rates but that was before they realised the promise was subject to no change in valuation.

In Reduced GRVs a new headache for councils on April 16 Yanchep News Online reported that metropolian gross rental values (GRVs), which are used by councils when setting their rates, had been on average reduced by 13 per cent.

In the story Landgate said those metropolitan local governments, including the City of Wanneroo had all been given an indication of the new valuations in February.

In her capacity as president of the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) Tracey Roberts, who is also the City of Wanneroo Mayor, wrote to Lands Minister Ben Wyatt about the potential to defer the reduced GRVs.

Mr Wyatt told Parliament on June 18 he said he would not do that and ultimately it would be unfair for him to do so.

He said the reality was reduced GRVs affected the state budget as well.

In May the City of Wanneroo put out for comment its proposed rates in the dollar, which if adopted would have resulted in 31 per cent of residential ratepayers having a rate increase of up to $150, compared with 2019-20 charges while 5 per cent faced a rate increase greater than $150.

In Proposed Wanneroo rates could see some pay more on May 23 the city said the reason the 5 per cent of properties faced a rate increase greater than $150 was due to “significant increase in gross rental values (GRVs) of their properties as determined by the state government”.

Some residents complained to Ms Winton who during the grievance in Parliament said council rates were not set by the state government and that people had cottoned on to the fact it was the proposed rate in the dollar – the part the council decided –  that the city was proposing to increase by 16 per cent.

The city’s proposal would it said have resulted in 56 per cent of Wanneroo residential ratepayers having a reduction in rates charges and 8 per cent of residential ratepayers having no change in their rates charges.

But some were so angry the city’s proposal if adopted would result in 36 per cent of ratepayers being charged more that 1894 people had by 8.30pm on Tuesday, June 30 signed an online petition organised by a Facebook page called City of Wanneroo Ratepayers – Against the Rate Increase.

The petition called on the city to honour what they said was a promise to freeze rates for the 2020-21 financial year, which Yanchep News Online reported in Ratepayers angry at Wanneroo’s stance on rates on June 30.

The special meeting which was to be held on Monday, June 29 for the council to discuss the rate in the dollar it was going to set for 2020-21 had already been cancelled.

On Thursday, July 2 a City of Wanneroo spokesman said while the city was reviewing all aspects of its Budget it was yet to set the date of its special council meeting to adopt its 2020-21 Budget and corporate business plan.

WALGA President Tracey Roberts said in the context of a rates freeze, most councils had resolved to take the same amount of money in rates as last year.

“That is, they will not be taking any more money from the ratepayer community as a whole,’’ she said.

“Despite this, the revaluation process means different GRV will be applied to some properties and so individual rates notices may go up or down across different properties to still derive the same rates income across the entire council area.”

“The way rates are determined is that once the budget is set (and in this case, rates revenue determined to be the same as last year), the rates revenue is divided by the combined rental value of all rateable properties to calculate the rate in the dollar.”

“If a council was to choose to amend the rate in the dollar above or below this adjusted level, it would mean the total rates revenue and budget would also be impacted accordingly.”