Push for tourism levy

THE introduction of a tourism levy and a differential rating system are suggested steps in a review of the rate structure and revenue streams of Moyne Shire Council.

Cr Jim Doukas, who called for the review, is seeking financial support from the council to get it off the ground.

He urged the council to consider allocating $40,000 in its 2014/15 budget for the work.

The request will be considered along with other budget submissions at a council workshop next week.

Cr Doukas said continuing economic pressures meant Moyne needed to get on the “front foot” in its bid to remain profitable.

“With all the drama about budget cuts and rate rises and cost blow-outs we have to look at what we are doing,” Cr Doukas said. “I think it is time to have a close look at our rate structure and also at how we raise revenue.

“We have to look at our fees and charges and also levies we have and others we may need to introduce.”

Cr Doukas said out of the 49 regional councils in Victoria, Moyne was one of only nine which did not have differential rating, meaning ratepayers were not always on a level playing field.

“At the moment, the owner of a big business in Sackville Street in Port Fairy pays the same rates as a little old lady who lives two blocks away in Campbell Street.

“That hardly seems fair and I would like to see that one flat rate across the shire changed to better reflect the situation.”

Cr Doukas said the economic strength of the tourism industry raised the potential for a new levy on tourism operators.

He suggested an agreed rate could be struck with operators who reaped enormous benefits because they were positioned in such a tourist heartland.

Cr Doukas also questioned the shire’s continued financial “propping up” of community services.

He said many services were provided on behalf of the state government but, in many cases, the state did not provide enough funding to make them viable, leaving the council out of pocket.

“The review would identify these services and it might then be time for us to tell the state government to come up with suitable funding for us to carry the services out or we may step away and leave it for them to deliver.”

Cr Doukas said if the council agreed to fund a rating review, it should be completed by an independent contractor in time for the start of next year’s budget process.

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