Rate take hit by exemptions

DID Melville council tacitly accept a claim by residents of St Ives retirement village to be rate-exempt when it adopted its annual budget last week?

The council adopted an average 2.2 per cent rate increase across the city, but is expecting the income it generates to be lower because of what it describes as “other movements in the rates base”.

The budget papers reveal that’s an increasing number of non-rateable retirement villages, and while the council says its only looked at illustrative examples rather than specific claims, it’s written off rates from 373 units across the city—almost the same number as there are in St Ives.

The retirees are negotiating with Murdoch University to submit the claim against the council, as the uni owns the land the 365-unit retirement village stands on.

Losing the rates from St Ives would cost the council more than $500,000.

Acting Melville council CEO Steve Cope said the adopted budget was a conservative revenue estimate.

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether the St Ives claim would set a precedent for other retirement villages to seek rates exemptions, only saying many already were.

“Non-rated status is determined on a case-by-case basis, and is determined by a number of factors with the major one being whether the land is being used for a charitable purpose,” Mr Cope told the Herald.

St Ives is not a charity, but the Herald understands the retirees are seeking the exemption because they’re on university land, which is non-rateable.

Mr Cope says city ratepayers subsidise rates lost to non-rateable properties to the tune of almost $2 million a year; equivalent to $45 per ratepayer.

Ratepayers will this year face an average increase of $38 to their rates bill, taking it to $1743.

The budget also includes a $34.9m capital works budget including $12.9m for works on council buildings and $7.3m for the Tompkins Park upgrade.

Over in Fremantle, the council handed down a modest 1.9 per cent increase—perfect for an election year.

It’s only got $20m for capital works, with more than half of that allocated to the rebuilding of its admin in Kings Square.

Mayor Brad Pettitt said the budget focused on the square revitalisation and getting “back to basics” with its services in the suburbs.

“This will include one of the most comprehensive verge mowing services in the Perth metropolitan area as well as enhanced rubbish and recycling services for residents,” Dr Pettitt said.

“There has also been a big budget boost for greening our city and parklands as we seek to plant more trees and meet our target of 20 per cent tree cover by 2020.”

There’s $1m for Cantonment Hill, $597,000 for staff and resources to look after the city’s open spaces and $990,000 for more parking spaces.

by STEVE GRANT

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