Frequently Asked Questions

 

Under what legal authority does Council levy rates? 

The legislative authority and responsibilities of local governments are outlined by Federal Government as follows:

Local government in Australia's Federation

Local government bodies have existed in Australia since the establishment of the Adelaide Corporation (now the City of Adelaide) in 1840. Across Australia, there are now about 560 local government bodies that promote local interests and deliver important services and infrastructure. These bodies are very diverse: the areas they cover range from less than a square kilometre to almost 380,000 square kilometres, and their populations range from a few hundred to more than 1 million. 

Local government is a legislative responsibility of the States and Territories and is recognised in the Constitution of each State. State parliaments determine the roles and responsibilities of local governments, and those responsibilities vary from State to State. 

Chapter 7 of the Constitution of Queensland 2001» notes the following in regard to the authority and responsibilities of local governments: 

Chapter 7 Local Government
Part 1 System of local government
Section 70 System of local government
  (1) There must be a system of local government in Queensland. 
  (2) The system consists of a number of local governments.
Section 71
Requirements for a local government
  (1) A local government is an elected body that is charged with the good rule and local government of a part of Queensland allocated to the body.

The Local Government Act 2009», promulgated by the Queensland Parliament in terms of the Queensland Constitution, says the following: 

 Chapter 2 Local Governments
 Part 1 Local governments and their constitution, responsibilities and powers
Section 9
Powers of local governments generally
  (1) a local government has the power to do anything that is necessary or convenient for the good rule and local government of its local government area.
 Chapter 4 Finances and accountability
 Part 1 Rates and charges
Section 94
Power to levy rates and charges
  (1) Each local government: 
     (a) must levy general rates on all rateable land within the local government area; and
     (b) may levy:
          (i) special rates and charges; and
          (ii) utility charges; and
          (iii) separate rates and charges. 
 Chapter 7 Other provisions
 Part 6 Other provisions
Section 262
Powers in support of responsibilities
 

(3) The powers include all the powers that an individual may exercise, including for example:

      (c) power to charge for a service or facility, other than a service or facility for which a cost-recovery fee may be fixed. 

When does Council issue Rate Notices?

Council's financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June, and Council issues Rate Notices twice each financial year:

  • in late July/early August; and
  • in mid-February;
with a payment due date 30 days thereafter.
How much is Council's Pensioner Rates Rebate?

Council offers a reduction in rates to eligible pensioners in the form of a Pension Rates Rebate which is currently $140 per year. The State Government Pensioner Rate Subsidy is a 20% rebate of Council rates and charges up to a maximum of $200 per year.   

What do ratepayers receive for their General Rates?

Refer to An Explanation of Rates & Charges

How are General Rates calculated?
Refer to An Explanation of Rates & Charges.  
What are Minimum General Rates and why are they necessary? 
Refer to An Explanation of Rates & Charges.
How are Services Charges calculated?
Refer to An Explanation of Rates & Charges.
Why are Service Charges payable for properties which do not receive services? 

Council's Water Access Charge and Sewerage Charge are levied to finance the capital cost of the Council's water and sewerage infrastructure, such as purification plants, reservoirs and pipes which are required to deliver water to Council's defined water supply areas and dispose of sewage from Council's defined sewerage areas. All ratepayers with properties within a water or sewerage area are required to pay a Water Access Charge and/or Sewerage Charge whether they are connected to the service or not.

The reason for this is that most ratepayers who own vacant land within a water or sewerage area and which is not currently connected to Council's infrastructure, plan to build on their property at some time in the future. The following simple example illustrates why Council charges everyone in a water or sewerage area a Water Access Charge and/or Sewerage Charge.

Example: consider that Council has 100 ratepayers who require a water supply. Council builds a water reservoir, purification plant, and pipes to supply those 100 ratepayers with water. Then one additional ratepayer finishes building their house on their previously vacant land and requests a water supply from Council. If Council had not provided for this in their water reservoir capacity nor laid pipes to service the additional property, the ratepayer would have to wait whilst Council built a new reservoir and  would have to finance the entire cost of a Council work team laying the extra meters of pipe to extend the system to their property. That would cost all ratepayers in that situation thousands of dollars and would delay their receipt of a water supply during which they would have to pay to have water trucked in.

If that situation arose, ratepayers would rightly consider that Council was inefficient and ineffective. That scenario would also be wasteful and inefficient from Council's perspective as it obviously doesn't cost as much to build a water reservoir to service 10,000 ratepayers as it would to build one for 1000 ratepayers and then another 1000 in a couple of years' time and so on. It also makes financial and practical sense that, whilst Council's work crew is laying water pipes in an area, they lay them for the whole area, whether it be for water or sewerage services, rather than going back every time the next property at the end of the current service area requests a water or sewerage service. Therefore it benefits both Council and the ratepayer concerned if Council provides water and sewerage infrastructure to an entire area and if all the ratepayers in that area pay a portion of the cost of providing that infrastructure. That is a much lower cost than the ratepayer would have to pay if they requested water or sewerage services individually.

A ratepayer may never build on their vacant land, and may consider that they are paying for a potential service they will never benefit from. Whilst that is true, that scenario does not arise very often, as most people build on vacant land. However if a ratepayer doesn't plan to build on their property they will likely eventually sell it and a property that is capable of being connected to water and sewerage services should attract a higher market price than one that is not capable of connection, therefore the ratepayer still benefits from the provision of those services.

What affect does a revaluation of properties have on General Rates?

The Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources and Mines usually revalues all properties in the Bundaberg Region each year and Council is compelled by law to use the new valuations to calculate a ratepayer's general rates. Some ratepayers believe that because their property's valuation has increased their rates will increase by the same amount. This is not the case.  The amount of General Rates which a ratepayer pays is calculated by multiplying their property's Government Valuation by a ‘Rate-in-the-dollar'. The Rate-in-the-dollar is calculated by dividing the total amount of money that Council needs to collect in rates by the total value of all rateable land as illustrated in the example below. For example, if Council needed to collect $4,000 in rates to provide three properties with general services, Council would calculate the rate-in-the-dollar by dividing the total amount it needed to collect ($4,000) by the total value of the properties ($301,000). So the rate-in-the-dollar in this example would be $4,000/$301,000 = 0.013289 cents in the dollar.

In this example, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines revalued Property ‘A' from $80,000 to $84,000, Property ‘B' from $101,000 to $120,000, and Property ‘C' from $120,000 to $132,000. Council still needs to collect a total of General Rates of $4,000 from them. Therefore Council would calculate the new rate-in-the-dollar after the revaluation by dividing the income needed ($4,000) by the new total valuation of $336,000 which would give a new rate-in-the-dollar of 0.011905 ($4,000/$336,000). The important thing is the ‘average' percentage valuation increase, which in this example is 12% ($336,000 - $301,000)/$301,000.

This example illustrates that ratepayers pay rates in proportion to their property's valuation compared to the average valuation for their rating category. Therefore ratepayers in a rating category who have experienced a higher-than-average valuation increase may experience an increase in rates and those who have experienced a lower-than-average valuation increase may experience a decrease in rates. In the following example, Property A's valuation increased by 5% (less than average) and so its rates decreased from $1,063 to $1,000. Property B's valuation increased by 19% (more than average) and so its rates increased from $1,342 to $1,429. A general revaluation provides Council with no more or less total revenue, it just redistributes the total rates between existing ratepayers depending on the relationship between their property's valuation and the average valuation of all properties in their rating category.

Why can't my rates be linked to CPI increases?

The rates which a Council levies are community-driven and reflect the desire of the community for a certain level of service. If Council restricted rates increases to the level of inflation it could not successfully meet its community's minimum expectations and would not fulfil its obligations to diligently administer and develop the region.

For example, the community may be dissatisfied with public areas, parks and verges which are maintained too infrequently, but more frequent maintenance can result in higher costs which may lead to an increase in the rates greater than CPI. Council continually strives to achieve an acceptable balance between its rates increases and the provision of the minimum service level required by its community.

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