Penrith Council has set its rates for 2019-2020 with a 5.4 per cent increase approved.
The proposed rates include the full increase approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), being a 5.4 per cent Special Rate Variation.
Rural property owners continue to be hit the hardest, with increasing land values forcing them to stump up significantly more each year.
According to a report presented to Councillors, Council has made “genuine efforts” to support rural property owners, but undesirable impacts to the majority of ratepayers has forced it to maintain the existing rating structure.
“Council has reviewed this rates structure many times over recent years with a view to providing lower rates for rural property owners,” the report states.
“Council will continue to review the rate structure annually, and advocate for changes to be made to the rating legislation, but it may not be until changes to the legislation are enacted that Council can modify the rate structure fairly and equitably and deliver lower rates for rural property owners.”
Councillors voted to increase the rates during Monday night’s Ordinary Council meeting, with Independent Councillors Marcus Cornish and Kevin Crameri opposing the motion.
Cr Cornish acknowledged there was an economic rationale for the rate hike, but suggested Council was a service provider not a business.
“5.4 per cent is a hell of a slug for a lot of people,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s morally fair,” he added, referring to the financial impact on rural property owners, many of whom are retired or pensioners.
Cr Crameri also voted against the motion, saying he did not believe Council did enough to force the State Government to release the IPART report.
The NSW Government directed IPART to review the rating legislation and IPART delivered its Final Report in December 2016. But to date, the details of the report have not been released.
2019-20 will be the last of the four-year Special Rate Variation, which allowed Council to increase its rates above the normal rate peg.
Council currently applies a rate structure whereby rate assessments are based on property valuations (Ad Valorem) with a Minimum Amount.
This means rates are predominantly based on the land value of the property.
Alena Higgins is the Weekender’s Senior News Reporter, primarily covering courts and Council issues.