The Shire of Capel council chambers was packed to the rim with ratepayers eagerly waiting to see what their elected members would decide on their 2018/19 rates last Tuesday night.
The shire recommended council approve changing the shire’s current rating system of differential rates to a rate in the dollar system.
This would have seen the special rural zone have the same rate as residential, urban development and town centre zones within the shire.
The proposal would have seen an increase of 28.63 per cent for special rural land owners and an 11.83 per cent increase for residential and urban development home owners.
Eight residents asked the chief executive officer Paul Sheedy questions during public question time which made it clear the rate payers were not happy about the original recommendation.
Gelorup resident Neill Rowlandson spoke before the vote and said many ratepayers were strongly opposed to the original recommendation and would like to see a 3 per cent increase.
Mr Rowlandson said the proposal could not possibly ‘satisfy the principle of fairness, equity and consistency’.
He added the shire had offered ‘no convincing or specific reasons for the need to impose a rate increase at a rate ten times that of the CPI increase’.
However, people power won the day as councillor Barry Bell moved an alternative motion to keep the differential rating system.
The motion included having a 6 per cent increase in rate in the dollar in all rating categories with no changes to current differential rating zones and a 6 per cent increase in the minimum rate to $1,345.
Councillor Michael Southwell put up an amendment to Cr Bell’s motion to change the increase to 3 per cent rate in the dollar.
Cr Southwell argued that the shire needed to place sustainability as a higher priority when making decisions.
“We have to address the idea of sustainability with every motion here and I don’t think have the definition right,” he said.
He said even a 6 per cent increase was unsustainable as there would come a point where rate payers won’t be able to afford it.
Cr Bell spoke against the amended motion and said if the shire dropped to 3 per cent rate increase it would need to find about $360,000 of savings in the budget.
Councillor Doug Kitchen spoke in favour of the 6 per cent increase and said it was tough but the shire had big costs coming up in the future.
Cr Southwell’s amendment was lost three to five and Cr Bell’s motion was passed five to three.
After the council decision, Mr Rowlandson said he was relieved they didn’t approve the original recommendation and that ‘people power won’.