At a recent rate strategy meeting Councillors voted 3 – 2 to retain the Capital Investment Value (CIV) system of setting the fee, rather than applying a flat service charge.
It means homeowners will pay an amount based on the value of their property. Initial modeling indicates the differential between lowest rated and top end homes could be upwards of $700.
Councillor Peter Russell, who together with Sue Wasterval opposed the differential rate, said most residents would be shocked to learn of the variance.
“I’ve argued for openness and inclusiveness in the community by showing where the costs to council is and this is an example of it,” he said.
“On one hand you think that it’s fair but it’s a bit like a revolving door. You don’t know where and who is going to get hit by this because it gets back to the CIV of your home rather than being one fair and equitable charge for everyone.
“I’m arguing that the fairness factor is a single unitary charge. Now rightly or wrongly as to what that could be, that’s where the Council needs to justify it."
The borough has applied the CIV method to waste for some 25 years, but the charges have previously been hidden within the general municipal rate. Queenscliffe is one of just seven of the 79 Councils not to recover garbage costs separately.
As a result of the state government’s new 2.5% rate cap, three waste charges – green, public and kerbside – will for the first time be itemised separately on the rates notice.
Residents pay a flat fee of around $41 and $82 for the first two services. The CIV system will only apply to kerbside collection, under the current draft proposal.
Commercial and vacant land properties that do not have access to the service will no longer contribute to the cost.
The complicated CIV formula means Point Lonsdale, which has roughly two thirds of the borough’s rateable properties, could be largely subsidising Queenscliff home owners, Mr Russell claimed.
“The worry I’ve got is that CIV is just so emotionally charged. Can you imagine people at a party talking about it and one person saying I pay $300 and the other saying I pay $500.
“In this community roughly under a million dollars is the waste cost. Now it’s a pretty simple calculation thereafter for people to say we divide the number of houses into the waste cost and that gives what our waste cost should be,” he said.
“I think all of us at Council are almost 100 percent [in unison] on the rest of the rating strategy except this one little garbage charge. It’s a real wildcard at the moment.”
The draft modelling indicates a flat fee would cost each household around $185.
Mayor Helene Cameron and Councillors Bob Merriman and Susan Salter voted to maintain the CIV. However Cr Merriman stressed no final decision has been made.
Its removal charge could result is a massive hit to those less well off in the community, he argued.
“We have made no decisions, no decisions at all, we are just looking at the different models that will accomplish the state government’s 2.5 percent cap and it’s okay to recover all waste charges.
“The challenge is this; is it right for people to be paying more for any waste than others given that it’s been the practice in the borough for the past 20 years.”
If a flat charge is introduced almost half of residents will suffer a rate increase in real terms of more than 7 percent. Some could rise by as much as 15 percent.
Conversely the municipal costs of top rated properties will drop to around 2 percent, according to Cr Merriman.
Under the present budget proposal the rate increase for all households in real terms (general rate rise plus garbage charges) will be around 4 percent.
The bottom line of rateable properties, valued at around $400,000, are presently paying $122 for the service. Top end properties are paying more than $900.
“The question is, is that fair and the answer is probably no but let me say this to you, that same spread would apply to all of our services whether it be roads, whether it be drains, whether it be trees,” Cr Merriman said.