MORE than 1800 people have signed an online petition calling on the City of Wanneroo to honour what they claim was a promise to freeze rates for the 2020-21 financial year.
Earlier this month a Facebook page called City of Wanneroo Ratepayers – Against the Rate Increase was formed by ratepayers Michelle McIntyre and Leah Beedham.
They said the group was for ratepayers to voice their concerns about the proposed differential rates published by the city on May 28.
Although many other issues had been raised on the page they said their focus was on the increase in rates, despite a decrease in gross rental values (GRVs) and a promise of a zero per cent increase.
On Tuesday, June 30 by about 8.30pm 1894 people had signed the petition.
Earlier at the council’s ordinary meeting when Mayor Tracey Roberts tabled the petition she said 406 of those had verified City of Wanneroo addresses.
But the petition organisers said not everyone who paid rates in the City of Wanneroo was a resident.
Prior to the meeting Ms McIntyre of Butler had submitted a question for public question time.
Ms McIntrye asked the city if it had received preliminary information in February that indicated a reduction in the GRV and whether local government had been aware the lower GRV was coming for about three years.
She asked if it was fair to say the council had knowingly misled ratepayers on April 7 by posting zero per cent increase on social media, which was later edited to add “subject to no change in valuations” because the city already knew there were going to be reductions.
In Parliament on June 18 Lands Minister Ben Wyatt said the City of Wanneroo had experienced a 14 per cent reduction in GRVs.
Mr Wyatt said the reduced GRVs were not a surprise to the city as the valuer general had provided all metropolitan local governments with an indication of the anticipated reduction in rates back in February, which Yanchep News Online reported in Reduced GRVs a new headache for councils on April 16.
He said that was well before commitments were being made by some councillors at the City of Wanneroo that they would freeze rates.
While responding to a grievance raised in the Parliament by Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton, Mr Wyatt said the GRV of 95.3 per cent of all properties in Wanneroo would reduce from July 1.
Ms Winton said the city’s proposed 16 per cent increase in the rate in the dollar – the part of rates councils decide – for improved residential properties had outraged residents.
In response to Ms McIntrye’s question about when the city learnt about the reduced GRVs City of Wanneroo corporate strategy and performance director Noelene Jennings said the city received a standard letter from Landgate in February indicating the potential downward change in values of property classes but this information was not sufficient to carry out rates modelling exercises.
“The city first received (an) appropriate level of revised GRV information in late April 2020 from Landgate and further updates were received in May 2020,’’ she said.
“It is not possible to model rates revenue without (detailed) GRV data and expected levels of service including details of (an) anticipated capital works program.
“The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) wrote to the Local Government, Heritage, Culture and arts on behalf of all Western Australian local governments (the City of Wanneroo has been a signatory to the WALGA submission) and requested a deferral of triennial revaluation.”
Mr Wyatt told Parliament that in her role as president of WALGA Mrs Roberts wrote to him about the potential for deferring the reduced GRVs.
“I explained to her that, no, I would not do that and, ultimately, it would be unfair for me to do so,’’ he said.
He said he knew the mayor and no doubt she was listening very intently to her ratepayers.
“My message more broadly to metropolitan mayors and councils is that rates are their revenue source.
“It is a revenue source from the state government that they control and defend quite vigorously.
“I note that some councils may not like the fact that property values have decreased.
“That impacts my budget, too (but) it is their rates and their decision and whether those councillors pass the cuts on to ratepayers is solely in the hands of local governments.’’