BASS Coast Shire Council keeps telling us there is a $600 million backlog in infrastructure issues. We know. Every day we all experience bad roads and footpaths, erosion and poor drainage – all in need of urgent attention.
We want to see our Shire shine with the very best it can offer – community facilities such as swimming pools, recreational grounds and arts centres that bring us together as a community and give our kids the best start in life.
Infrastructure spending means local jobs.
So how do we fix this backlog? It’s simple. We make rates fair for all.
There is far too much reliance on rates on residential properties to fund the Bass Coast Shire Council budget.
The demographics are changing. The influx of young families and retirees means we need to reduce the burden on these people and instead look to those who can actually afford it – the owners of commercial properties, industrial properties, lifestyle properties and holiday homes. In our Shire, holiday homes make up a large percentage of properties. Holiday home owners pay the same amount as residents.
In a nutshell, similar to land tax, the more property you own, the more tax you pay.
We are in a good position to move on our infrastructure backlog. To quote from the council’s 2018-19 annual report, Bass Coast’s cash holdings and equivalents have grown from $24.31 million to $51.34 million over the past seven years.
If the council reviews rates we can pay for the works necessary to take our community into the future.
Council should also introduce a 12-month rolling cashflow as a management tool to help it forecast revenue and expenditure on a monthly basis. As one month is completed, the new months are re-forecasted. This will enable the council to better manage funds that are available for infrastructure spending.
But it is not just the council that needs to act.
The Victorian Government is currently reviewing its Local Government Rating System. In its terms of reference for this review, the Victorian Government says it is committed to the financial sustainability of councils and ensuring the burden of rates falls fairly amongst all taxpayers.
I think most of us would agree with that sentiment.
Bass Coast Council has already put in a submission to this review which I support.
The Victorian Government must repeal the current 2.5 per cent rate cap. There is no way this is sustainable for any rural council such as ours. We don’t have revenue coming from parking and other fees that metropolitan councils do.
I know governments and councils run scared from the politics of rate increases. But surely economic stability would come in before political point-scoring. The system we have at the moment is simply not sustainable. In fact, our Shire is going backwards because the rate cap means we can’t spend what we need to on our infrastructure. It’s untenable.
If the Victorian Government scraps the rate cap, I encourage the council to do a full rates review so we can all commit to future sustainability via infrastructure spending, paid for by the fairest means possible – an increase in rates, plus Australian and Victorian government grants.
If we, the people of the Bass Coast, can bring money to the table I’m sure the Australian and Victorian governments would support our infrastructure projects.
So make it fair, governments and council, and fix the potholes. That’s all we ask.