Council rates revenue issue

POTENTIAL lost rate revenue from closed power stations in the Latrobe Valley could see residents’ rates bills rise sharply.

A Latrobe City Council delegation, including Mayor Ed Vermeulen, has met with local state MPs and state ministerial department representatives in recent weeks to highlight the anticipated impact of lost power industry rate revenue in the municipality.

In council’s recent submission to the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee’s discussion paper, it said of council’s $100 million budget, more than $7 million came from power generators’ rates annually. Generators also contributed over $50,000 in direct sponsorship to council programs including the Latrobe Regional Gallery public education program, the submission said.

It claimed the three generators in current ‘contract for closure’ negotiations paid almost $3.5 million annually in lieu of rates and most made “significant contributions to community and sporting groups…through sponsorship, donations and in kind support.”

The submission estimated replacing lost revenue would result in an increase of about seven percent additional to the average annual five per cent increase that currently occurred, “therefore placing a significant burden on rate payers”.

The document said the impact of a carbon tax on Latrobe Valley ratepayers meant they “may not be in a position to be able to absorb additional rate increases which would ultimately lead to a decrease in the services that council is able to deliver”.

These matters were raised with the State Government recently, Cr Vermeulen told The Express.

He said the local delegation was taken seriously during a meeting at State Parliament.

“We didn’t expect a bucket of money and someone to say ‘here go and fix it’, we just wanted to flag these issues and ensure that they are in the thinking of both the state and federal governments, and we have raised this with (Federal Regional Australia Minister) Simon Crean in the past.”

“The conversations have been about getting the issue on the table and ensuring people understand the full implications,” Cr Vermeulen said.

“We are far from shirking the issue, but we are certainly wanting help on this because these are policies they are putting in place and we just find things are changing at such a rapid pace; we need to do all that we can here.”