Rates up 10 per cent

FREMANTLE council is planning to push rates up by almost 10 per cent this year.

The increase won’t result in an instant cash bonanza, though, as a corresponding slump across the city’s rental values over the last three years will even things out.

CEO Philip St John said while the council tried to keep rates as low as possible, it also needed enough revenue to provide services and facilities.

“Maintaining rate revenue at the same level as last year, excluding interim rates, will help us strike a balance between minimising the cost to ratepayers while also ensuring we have enough revenue to fund essential services and facilities that will help Fremantle bounce back from Covid-19,” Mr St John said.

“If the rate in the dollar set by the council was frozen at the same rate as the previous year, it would translate into a net rate revenue decrease for the city of approximately $4.1 million.

Mr St John said the council had already lost $6 million in revenue this year directly attributed to the impact of the coronavirus.

Rental values

“While average gross rental values have gone down, the costs to local governments in providing services and facilities for the community have continued to rise.

The Herald also discovered this week the McGowan government’s $100 million lending facility announced earlier this month came at the request of Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt.

Dr Pettitt contacted Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk’s office seeking the lifting of a “cap” on loans from WA Treasury, as the council’s $20 million facility is maxed out by the Kings Square redevelopment and it was worried it could run short of cash if ratepayers were late paying their bills.

Ms McGurk confirmed she took the request to the premier, who’d previously ruled out Covid-grants for council, who quickly gave it his stamp of approval.

Dr Pettitt told the Herald the loans were only being looked at as a back-up if rates were late.

“Other than that I think we’ll be funding any other capital works as per usual – but I don’t think there’ll be a lot of it, to be honest,” Dr Pettitt said.

There was some good economic news for the council, which will receive a couple of million in capital grants announced this week by the Morrison government as part of a Covid “stimulus” package for local government.

Dr Pettitt noted it was mostly a repackaging of existing funding commitments, but “they did bring one forward a year, though, so that was something,” he said.

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