City urged to rethink spending

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Jason Keeffe lives in Woorre and was shocked to find his rates this financial year had increased by 15 percent.
Camera IconJason Keeffe lives in Woorre and was shocked to find his rates this financial year had increased by 15 percent. Credit: Francesca Mann/Picture: Francesca Mann, Francesca Mann The Geraldton Guardian

A Woorree resident who was hit with a 15 per cent rate increase is urging the City of Greater Geraldton to reduce its spending.

When Jason Keeffe received his rates notice in July he was shocked to see it had increased by $377.95, jumping from $2532.95 last financial year to $2910.90.

With the gross rental value (GRV) of his home dropping by $780, Mr Keeffe said it was “ridiculous” that his rates were more expensive.

“I just about fell over,” he said.

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“It’s unfair for people to keep copping this increase; wages aren’t going up that much.

“The City has got to stop spending, they need to step back and look at the reality of how it’s impacting working people’s lives.”

During 2018-19 budget deliberations, City of Greater Geraldton councillors agreed to increase rates for residential properties by 2.7 per cent, increasing the rate in the dollar from 11.9016¢ to 14.6334¢.

The minimum amount payable was kept at $1010.

Council documents suggested 41 per cent of residential properties would pay the same rates as last year or less, thanks to new gross rental values taking effect on July 1.

Earlier in the year the City advertised it intended to increase the residential rate in the dollar to 12.3181¢.

But with Geraldton’s combined GRV for residential properties dropping by $43 million, Mayor Shane Van Styn said the rate in the dollar needed to be readjusted.

“The rate applied was based on an overall aggregate revenue increase of 2.1 per cent on residential properties — on average $28 per property,” he said.

“The combined valuation in 2017-18 was $245 million, and from July 1 it dropped to $202 million due to the new valuations.

“Council adjusted the rate in the dollar applied to residential properties to realise this 2.1 per cent growth.”

This year was the first time Moresby resident Dean Davidson’s rates had decreased, with $229 shaved off his bill.

Mr Davidson, who lives with his wife and three children, said they built their house in 2015 on a 1 hectare block of land.

“I was a little surprised,” he said.

“But I guess property prices around Moresby may have dropped a bit more than other suburbs, since there was more than a $6000 decline in our GRV.

“It only amounts to a saving of just over $200, but every bit helps.”

Mount Tarcoola resident Liam Craylon also saw his rates decrease this year, dropping by about $70.

“I was a bit surprised considering all the talk on social media,” he said.

“I’ve only had the house for three years, this was the first rates drop.”

One resident in Spalding told The Geraldton Guardian she thought there had been a mistake with her family’s rates when she noticed they were around $100 cheaper.

But another Spalding resident said his rates had risen by $100 to approximately $1880, while his father, who lives across the road, was paying about $200 less for his rates.

In Waggrakine, Rebecca Buck was shocked to find her rates had increased by $700. Mrs Buck and her family have lived in the home for 10 years. “We were under the impression they would be about the same, normally it goes up by about $300 to $400,” she said.

“We don’t have deep sewerage, don’t have natural gas, the closest park is over in Forester Park; the jump in rates is just ridiculous.”

One resident in Deepdale with a rates bill over $4000 said it was a “stressful” situation to be in.

“It’s almost $80 per week,” she said.

“It’s a Catch 22; you are slogged with rates as a homeowner, or you sell up.”

For one Strathalbyn resident, their rates have increased by 74 per cent over the last eight years.

Mr Keeffe said the City needed to re-evaluate how ratepayer’s money is spent, questioning why the City was spending $20,000 to send four representatives to China.

“They’re going way beyond the call of duty with other people’s money,” he said.

“Tourism initiatives and getting people to Geraldton is the role of a private enterprise, not the local government.”

Mr Van Styn said the City played a crucial role in helping businesses grow. “This is vital to the success of our community,” he said.

“With a renewed focus on economic growth and tourism through the Growing Greater Geraldton Growth Plan, the City is working collaboratively with a number of different organisations, as well as private enterprise.

“Under the plan, by 2036 Greater Geraldton will have grown into a thriving regional capital with a powerhouse economy.”

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