City of Cockburn error leads to refunds

COCKBURN ratepayers will be refunded $1.36 million.

At its council meeting on Thursday night, the City of Cockburn said an error incorporating its waste management fee had led to overbilling more than 14,500 properties with high gross rental values (GRV).

The City is now taking steps to refund affected property owners.

If rates have been paid and the refund is more than $50, a credit payment will be issued by the City.

If it is less than $50, this will be applied as a credit to future rates.

The rebate will be applied as an offset to any outstanding balance on the rates for ratepayers who chose to pay in instalments.

The City says there was no impact to commercial, industrial, rural or minimum rated properties, or vacant or unimproved properties.

The City adopted its 2015-16 budget in June, spruiking that it had adopted a “sensible” budget with an average increase of 3.5 per cent for households and businesses across the City.

The budget included the consolidation of the waste management service charge and the community surveillance levy into the rate in the dollar, which meant 6300 pensioners would be able to maximise the value of the rebate available through the State-funded pensioner rebate scheme.

But in a report to council, Cockburn’s financial services manager Nelson Mauricio said this model meant properties with a high GRV were contributing disproportionately more.

“While the focus of Council’s intent was for Cockburn’s pensioner ratepayers to be more advantaged, the unintended consequence of the outcome was a disproportionately greater rates increase to those properties with a higher GRV,” he said.

“This was due to the sharper increase in the rate in the dollar (up from four cents to seven cents) than is normally experienced, as a result of the incorporation of the service charges into the general rate for this year.”

More than 14,500 properties will share in the compensation, with about three to receive more than $1000.

Most will receive between $5 and $100.

Mr Mauricio said the City would take steps to compensate those ratepayers affected, “effectively equalising the impact of the incorporation”.

“Affected ratepayers will receive explanatory written advice, together with amended rates notice, or instalment notice if applicable, detailing the amount of the concession refundable or credited against future rates debts,” he said.

The Banjup Residents Group (BRG) and the Coogee Beach Progress Association has been sceptical of the rate increases for some time.

BRG vice-president Ian Thurston welcomed the admission, but questioned why it took so long.