OUTRAGE over the City of Swan’s rates review has prompted the reformation of the Brigadoon Progress Association, with rural property owners concerned for what the change of use could do to their hip pocket.
Brigadoon resident Karen Mowat was one of the community members who pushed for the reformation after hearing about the review and what it would mean for the more than 4000 residents living on hobby farms.
Ms Mowat’s property was changed from unimproved valuation (UV) to gross rental valuation (GRV) in 2007 during the City’s last rate review.
She said at the time she didn’t know what it meant, but the decision meant her rates increased.
“We were new to the area, so we just filled it out without knowing what it meant,” she said.
“The change was negative in regards to the dollar value and having our rates go up, with about a $1000 comparison in our rates compared with my neighbour who is rated as UV.
“I regret the decision and believe it was misleading.”
She said she had spent the last decade trying to change her use back to UV.
“People need to be aware of what this change will mean,” she said.
“The City of Swan isn’t going to do a review if it means people will be paying less rates – rates will increase.”
Swan council will discuss a range of options at its agenda forum next Wednesday including postponing the review.
City chief executive Mike Foley said the ideas put forward would be presented in the form of motions at the next council meeting.
West Swan MLA Rita Saffioti said she had written to the City urging it to postpone its rate review.
She said the community had raised serious concerns and any review of how the City charges rates needed to wait until after the State Government had completed the review of the Swan Valley Protection Bill and Development Plan.
Brigadoon Progress Association committee member Rachel Ivic said there was a lot of anger and uncertainty surrounding the timing, validity and equity of the review.
“City of Swan have not provided enough information (or examples) for people to calculate the financial impact this could have,” she said.
“The Local Government Act 1995 and Swan Valley Planning Act underpin how councils operate (including conducting a review of the rates method) both these documents are currently undergoing a review.
“Why is the City of Swan conducting this process when the underpinning policies are subject to change?”
Ms Ivic said neighbours living side by side with the same land size, land use and similar house size were rated inconsistently, with one UV and one GRV.
She said the communication in regards to the review had been handled badly by the City and residents were hoping for the review to be postponed indefinitely or to such time when the key terms such as ‘rural’, ‘predominately’, ‘hobby farm’ and ‘livelihood’ could be judicially defined and then communicated.
“Despite the City’s own ‘vision and values’ which speak of ‘open and transparent decision-making’ and ‘good governance’ and ‘legislative compliance’ ratepayers feel disheartened the decision to undertake the review was swept through at the council’s April meeting without community awareness,” she said.
“The ironic timing has not escaped the notice of ratepayers, with the letter having been issued on the very same day (Monday October 23 2017) that the new council was sworn in.”