Farmers urge rural councils to adopt fairer rating strategies
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is urging rural councillors to consider the unfair burden being placed on farmers by rising municipal rates ahead of the development of their upcoming budgets.
VFF Farm Business and Regional Development Committee Chairman Peter Tuohey said farmers were shouldering too much of the burden caused by years of inadequate funding for local councils.
“Local governments have an obligation under the Local Government Act to ensure the equitable imposition of rates and charges. The reality is that this isn’t happening in many shires across Victoria and farmers are wearing much of the pain,” Mr Tuohey said.
“In many rating areas farm families are paying upwards of three times as much as those who live in residential zoned areas.”
“The existing rating system does not accurately capture capacity to pay or benefits received from the land. While farming land may be highly valued, often this does not translate to income attained from that land.”
“While farms do operate as businesses, ours is almost the only industry where the major income producing asset, land, is subjected to an annual ad valorem tax. This imposes a distorting burden on farmers.”
“The VFF is calling on rural councillors to take these key points into account when developing their budgets over the coming months. More must be done to spread the rating burden more fairly across the entire community as well as to secure alternative revenue streams and additional funding from other levels of government.”
“One option backed by the VFF’s modelling data is the application of a municipal charge. The Local Government Act allows for 20 per cent of rates revenue to come from a municipal charge. This must be considered as part of a fairer funding regime. Long term planning must also be put in place now to ensure the gap between farm and residential rates does not continue to widen.”
“The VFF is willing to work with our members, state and local governments and other industry associations to ensure the rights of farmers are defended and fairness is restored to rating in Victoria,” Mr Tuohey concluded.