Rates notice concerns

PROPERTY valuation increases of more than 20 per cent have shocked and outraged some Latrobe Valley residents as they opened their council rate notices this week.

Some residents have voiced their concerns at the biennial property valuation from 1 January this year, with Latrobe City Mayor Ed Vermeulen saying valuation of properties was an ongoing issue.

“The Valuer-General is directing that potential value of undeveloped land is taken more into account and there in lies a lot of the problems,” Cr Vermeulen said, adding property valuation was “out of council’s control”.

“This change in policy direction has come about in the past few years and this is not the first year it was applied; it was a problem last year and it has been building up.”

On the back of the recent residential rezoning of hundreds of hectares of parcels of land across the Latrobe Valley, farm owners in the rezoned area have been issued with soaring rates based on the property’s “potential” value.

“One of the major aspects of the problem is with undeveloped land on the fringe of regional centres because the policy now says potential value of land will be considered,” Cr Vermeulen said.

While new valuations are understood to favour some property owners, Cr Vermeulen conceded some valuations were “unfair” to others.

“If the market value doesn’t support the rated value then it is obviously unfair on people,” he said.

In less 24 hours more than 70 Express readers took to social media to voice their concerns, with some saying they would be happy to sell their properties for their valued price. This year’s average residential rate rise for Latrobe City was 5.77 per cent, which Traralgon resident Wayne Van Heerewaarden argued he was paying too much for his property.

“My rates were $1500 for a little old house on Liddiard Road. Not sure how they work it out but something doesn’t seem right,” Mr Van Heerewaarden said.

“My house definitely is not worth $295,000 though if anybody wants to buy it for that, consider it sold.”

Latrobe City finance manager Matthew Rogers refuted the mayor’s “unfair” claims and said independent valuer CJA Lee Property, Traralgon valued properties in line with guidelines set by the Valuer-General.

Many homeowners believe their rate rise was determined by the increase in their property’s value, however Mr Rogers said council determined property rates by applying a rate per dollar to the value of the property.

If properties increase in value, council compensates by reducing the rate per dollar.

Mr Rogers said council did not generate extra revenue as property values increase.

“The valuation takes into consideration the market value as the main driver…, size of properties, the land and the improvements to the land, the age of improvements, the location of the property,” he said.

“The valuation is based as of 1 January 2012.”

Despite reduction in the general rates, Mr Rogers said council had received “a steady flow of calls” regarding issued rate notices.

With real estate in a “soft market”, Keith Williams Estate Agency Traralgon managing director Grant Williams encouraged homeowners to make their own enquires into what they believe their property was worth.

Objections can be made in relation to the value of a property within two months of the rate notice being issued.

CJA Lee Property, Traralgon did not respond by time of publication.