Mooroolbool rate cap quandary

Moorabool council has put off deciding whether to apply for a variation of the state government’s 2024-25 rate increase cap.

Liam McNally

Moorabool council has deferred deciding whether to apply for a variation on the state government’s 2024-25 rate increase cap of 2.75 per cent.

The government announced in December a 2.75 per cent rate cap that it said was based on the Essential Services Commission’s recommendation and is equal to the forecast Consumer Price Index for 2024-25.

During a Moorabool council meeting on February 7 councillors discussed whether to apply for a variation to the cap.

While the council officer recommendation was not to apply for a rate cap increase, chief executive Derrek Madden said the constraint had a “significant impact” on council.

“We haven’t prepared a budget on the basis of a revenue increase but it does have a significant impact on future years because for the last three to four years, CPI has been running well above where the cap is,” he said.

Councillor Tom Sullivan moved to defer the decision as council does not need to notify the state government of its intention until March 31.

“It’s not that I’m advocating that we increase it but I’d like to know the full implication of the decision,” he said.

Councillor Paul Tatchell hit out at the Fair Go Rates system as a whole, however he favoured council deciding on the night to go along with the rate cap.

“The Fair Go Rates system has been a crock of proverbial since it arrived… all it really did was shift the focus back on the council,” he said.

“Whilst it’s not ideal, I’m saying that we don’t apply for an increase regardless. What we need to do is we need to live within our means, so that we can then show where the cost shift is between local government and state government rather than confusing the punters by saying ‘we need to put the rates up’.”

Councillor Tonia Dudzik also voted against the deferral and backed the officer recommendation.

“Council staff have actually run the figures and said that it’s possible for us to operate without applying for right cap variation… at the end of the day, we’re here for residents who don’t want their rates excessively raised,” she said.

The deferral passed with the supporting votes of councillors Ward, Edwards, Sullivan and Mayor Ally Munari. No councillors directly stated council should increase the rate cap.