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Councils raise most of their revenue through rates, a system of taxation based on the value of the property. The Local Government Act 1999 (the Act) requires councils to clearly explain and justify their decisions about the amount and distribution of rates.
Prior to setting council rates each year, all councils are required to adopt an annual business plan, budget and rating strategy. The level of council rates collected is therefore determined by the annual budget that councils set to provide services to the community. Councils have a range of tools available to them within the Act to determine a rating strategy that, in their view, best suits its community. Councils then set a rate in the dollar to distribute rates amongst the community to generate the required rate revenue.
The overall amount collected by a council is not set by property values but is set by a council as part of its annual business plan and budget. After a council has determined its annual budget and the total amount of rates revenue it needs to undertake its business plan, the council relies upon the valuation of a property to determine the distribution of the rate burden between ratepayers.
Importantly, councils must be accountable to their communities for their rating decisions. A key element of this is the requirement under the Act for councils to consult with their community on their draft annual business plan each year, which includes information on proposed rating decisions. This consultation process helps councils balance community demands for services and infrastructure with the revenue-raising needed to pay for them.
Concerns about rates
If you have any concerns about a council's rate-setting decisions or the level of services they provide, contact the council to express your concerns in the first instance.
Objecting to a property valuation
If you believe the valuation of your property is incorrect, write to the Valuer-General (or as directed in the rates notice) within 60 days of receiving notification, stating the grounds for the objection. More information about property valuation and forms for making an objection are available from the Property Valuations webpage.
Remissions and postponement of rates
Under Section 182 of the Local Government Act 1999, a council may remit or postpone the payment of rates if it considers that the payment would impose hardship on the ratepayer. A council may also provide remissions to holders of Commonwealth Concession Cards or State Seniors Cards. Enquiries about remission or postponement of rates should be directed to your council.
Seniors Rate Postponement Scheme
State Seniors Card holders can apply to postpone a proportion of rates on their principal place of residence under the Seniors Rate Postponement Scheme. The scheme helps older ratepayers who have a high level of equity in their home but are on limited incomes. It operates similarly to a reverse mortgage, in that it is based on the equity that has been built up in the home. For details about the scheme and how to apply, contact the rates officer at your council.