No increase in rates next year to ease coronavirus pain

Published on 25 March 2020

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Ratepayers in Corangamite Shire have received a helping hand to offset some of the economic effects of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

At their March meeting in Timboon on Thursday, Councillors unanimously voted to defer and waive interest on rates due by 31 May until 31 July 2020, and to not apply a rate increase in the 2020-21 Budget. 

They also voted to recommend $2.5 million be set aside in next year’s Budget to fund measures that could support ratepayers and businesses affected by closedowns and job losses caused by the pandemic. 

As the coronavirus pandemic is a new and evolving crisis, details of those are yet to be worked out.

Mayor Neil Trotter said a significant downturn was looming and Council had an obligation to help residents. 

“The omens aren’t looking good and I think we’re going to be in a period of downturn for quite some time,” Cr Trotter said.

“I think it’s fitting that we take this opportunity when we’re in the fortunate position of having been working on the Budget. We haven’t finalised that yet and we can go back and make some adjustments.

“It’s going to be very, very important for our community to do that. The savings we’re going to make are not inconsiderable but there is probably still going to be a lot of pain and we have to be prepared for that and I think the community has to be prepared for that. I can see unemployment figures blowing out exponentially in the area. We have to do what’s in our limited capacity to do.”

Deputy Mayor Ruth said it was the appropriate course of action.

“We’re certainly in unpredictable and unprecedented times,” Cr Gstrein said.

“In such a short time we’ve seen panic buying in supermarkets, lockdowns, businesses closed, no sport being played, job losses, the stock market in freefall and social distancing. 

“The impact on our community is and will continue to be very tangible for at least several months.

“We need to look out for each other to make sure we come through this as unscathed as possible.

“We need to show compassion and understanding for those who have lost their jobs and the wonderful small business owners and operators we have in our towns.”

Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason said it was a significant decision by the Council and an opportunity to support The Shire’s communities.

“Freezing rates and freeing up cash for will allow Council to support the community and businesses over the coming period,” Mr Mason said.

“We don’t know how long the pandemic and associated downturn are likely to take. We’re in the position of being debt free and having some small cash reserves which had been carefully set aside for an emergency. That emergency is now here.”

Director Corporate and Community Services David Rae said freezing rates would cost Council $400,000 in 2020-21. This, together with the $2.5 million earmarked  will allow Council to inject$5 million into the community over the next four years.

“It’s the right decision for this time. Council has its part to play,” he said.

“It’s not a significant amount compared to the Commonwealth and State stimulus packages, but it will still be of benefit.

“It was important to make this provision so there is capacity in the Budget to deliver those measures.”

Property owners who are having difficulty paying their rates are encouraged to contact Council on 5593 7100 to discuss their situation and how the decision affects them.