CORANGAMITE Shire residents have been warned: don’t blame the council for the fire levy on your rates notice.
The annual rates notices are due to be sent in coming days and will, for the first time, include the new fire services property levy (FSPL).
A recommendation of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, the levy is a state government-imposed fee designed to ensure every property owner contributes to the funding of fire services.
Previously, the levy was included on insurance premiums, meaning those without insurance did not have to pay.
The commission found this insurance-based levy was unfair and lacked transparency.
In a report to council’s last meeting, the shire’s rate revenue co-ordinator Paul Coverdale said the levy was calculated on the capital improved value of a property plus a fixed charge component.
“The levy rate and fixed charge differs for residential, industrial, commercial, primary production (farming), vacant and public benefit properties,” Mr Coverdale stated.
“There is a $50 concession for eligible pensioners. Property owners who currently receive a council rates concession in respect of their principal place of residence will automatically receive the FSPL concession.” Mr Coverdale said farms that comprised multiple land parcels but were valued as a single property for rating purposes were treated as a single property for the FSPL, meaning they would pay the fixed component of the levy only once.
“A person may also apply for an exemption from paying more than one fixed charge for a farm property that is a single-farm enterprise.
“The levy applies to all land in Victoria unless it has been allocated an exempt land use classification. The levy is charged on properties which may be exempt from paying council rates.”
Mr Coverdale said just over $3.1 million in fire levies would be collected from Corangamite ratepayers.
He said the government had provided funding to upgrade the council’s information technology systems and help with increased printing and valuation costs.
Additional customer service staff have been rostered on when rate notices are mailed out to handle an anticipated increase in inquiries.
Cr Ruth Gstrein said while she believed the new system was fairer, her “beef” was with the way the levy was being collected and the imposition it put on local government.
She said many people would simply assume it was a council charge.
“I know it’s a valuation-based levy, but the state government should have been in a position to collect it itself,” Cr Gstrein said.