City recommends review of rates exemptions
The City of Greater Bendigo has announced its support for a review of rating exemptions on some classes of land, whilst supporting the continued flexibility for differing land uses.
In its submission to the State Government’s Local Government Rating Review, the City outlined its support for current exemptions for land used for public purposes, unoccupied Crown land and land held in trust and used by organisations of ex-service personnel.
However, it recommends reviewing exceptions on land for mining, land used as a residence for ministers of religion, and land used by RSLs and other exempt bodies that derive income from poker machines, and land used by private schools and universities.
Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke said the current system of exemptions was inconsistent and unclear.
“At the moment we do not collect rates on land used for mining or RSLs that generate revenue and profits through poker machines. We think that in many cases these types of land uses are not ‘charitable’ and the criteria for exemptions should be reviewed,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“Land for private schools and universities is also exempt. Often schools or universities lease their premises on a commercial basis, so the land owner is raising a profit from the land, without contributing any rates, which we do not believe is fair.
“Many of these organisations essentially operate as businesses, not charitable organisations, so they should be paying rates. Commercial land owners pay a higher rate than general residents because on average they make money from their property.
“In the case of schools and universities, there are thousands of students across Greater Bendigo that use the footpaths and roads that surround the facilities, which the City pays for.
“As Greater Bendigo continues to grow, it is important that we provide good quality services and infrastructure for everyone to enjoy.
“Rates are a really important source of income for councils and contribute to our ability to provide critical infrastructure for our community. The more properties that pay rates the lower the rates paid by other residents or landowners, so it is fair to all residents that exemptions are consistent.
“The City is also keen to retain the flexibility to charge farmers a lower rate, based on capacity to pay, community benefit and access to services, so this was also included in our submission to the State Government.”
The review is due to deliver a report to the Minister for Local Government by the end of March.