Traders rates win

Heads of Hobsons Bay's four main trader groups united to oppose rate rises: Nikki Eyes, Kim Walsh, Gill Gannon and Mahesh Garg. (Damjan Janevski) 211841_01

Goya Dmytryshchak

Hobsons Bay traders have had a win with commercial rates set to drop by an average of 1.91 per cent under the council’s 2020-21 budget adopted last week.

Originally, the draft budget had proposed to increase rates by 3.89 per cent for commercial properties and 8.78 per cent for industrial properties.

Under the revised budget, the total rate increase across all categories averages 2 per cent, but this has been offset by rebates that will bring five out of the six rating categories into the negative.

Rates will drop in five categories including residential (-0.17 per cent), vacant residential land (-0.31per cent), industrial property (-0.02 per cent) and cultural and recreational property (-0.27 per cent). The petrochemical sector will bear an average 2.64 per cent increase.

Corporate services director Andrew McLeod told last week’s council meeting there had been a $2.2 million adjustment to provide targeted rate relief.

He said the council had provided nearly $3 million relief since the COVID-19 outbreak last financial year and that about $5.5 million was allocated in this year’s budget.

The $2.2 million has been carved off the capital works allocation, the council meeting heard.

Cr Peter Hemphill said the council had listened to traders to drop the commercial rates.

“We’ve listened and we’ve gone from (3.89) down to a negative 1.9 per cent,” he said.

“There are five categories that are now less than what was in the 2019-20 budget … we never intended to create hurt in that area but we’ve listened and made some changes.

“I know that a lot of those traders lease their premises that they operate out of and while the budget relief that we’re intending here will go to the owners of those properties, we hope that those landlords hear what we are saying and pass on that relief to those lessees of those premises.

“And, certainly, I’d want to hear from individual businesses that are not getting that relief passed on to them.”

Councillors Tony Briffa and Michael Grech voted against the budget, while Cr Angela Altair abstained from voting.

Cr Altair questioned how much an across-the-board rate freeze would have cost and was told it would be $1.6- $1.7 million on top of the $2.2 million adjustment. Cr Altair told the meeting she wanted a flat rate freeze.

“We keep talking about average increases and decreases when we know in some respects depending on the valuation of your property there are actually quite significant variations to people’s individual rate notices,” she said.

“Under my scenario, nobody would have been paying more than they paid in rates last year.”

Cr Briffa argued against the average 2 per cent rate rise and increased fees.

“I know that the budget actually stipulates a 2 per cent rate increase every year for the next four years, at least until 2024,” Cr Briffa said.

“In fact, it’s a 10.7 per cent increase over four years to be more specific.

“I also note that many of the fees and charges have also increased … and most of those have increased by more than 2 per cent.

“For example … the cat registration for sterilised cats is going up by 4.76 per cent.

“… The registration for sterilised dogs is going up by 2.65 per cent.

“If I look at street furniture for local businesses, that’s going up 3 per cent according to the fees and charges.

“The parking ticket machines are going up by 5.41 per cent when they are turned back on in 2021.”