Rate rebate creates debate

RATE REBATE DEBATE: District Council of Grant councillor Megan Dukalskis sparked a debate about the future of discretionary rate rebate. Picture: FILE

Charlotte Varcoe

THE District Council of Grant has agreed to review its discretionary rate rebate to community groups.

Elected members reviewed its Community Funding and Support policy at its May meeting with Councillor Megan Dukalskis requesting a change to the grants to community groups equivalent to rates section.

The current section claims council would provide community groups with a discretionary rebate of 10 per cent of general rates on the basis the groups “provide a benefit or service” to the local community.

Cr Dukalskis requested a change to the policy section stating committees and community groups should provide evidence of being a benefit to the community.

She requested council write to all community groups receiving the rebate prior to May 31 and a response should be received within four weeks.

Cr Dukalskis also claimed she had been asking about the OB Flat hall and its benefit to the community for years and should the halls not be used for community benefit, it was rates council was missing out on.

Director of finance Gary Button said there were a number of halls where there was not a select committee which may make it difficult to receive rates – stating it would be difficult to charge for rates if there was nobody to charge.

Council chief executive officer Darryl Whicker said in order to attract a discretionary rate rebate there needed to be a “process of ensuring” there was community use and that purpose associated with the land or premise.

“Each year council is presented with a figure of what we have rolled out in discretionary rates without a review and validation,” Mr Whicker said.

“What council is committing to is a process where annually the council will be presented with the community organisations which attracted discretionary rate rebates and where we can ensure there is a process of validation of the continued connection to a community purpose.”

He said he believed it would be “fair to say” there were some buildings in the area which would not “immediately resonate” with the connection and administration should be validating that purpose.

“The debate in council was fruitful and is likely to result in a process improvement to transparency and also will provide the opportunity for the greater link to community value for either existing to validate existing arrangements or opportunity for new organisations to be included into the fresh rebates,” Mr Whicker said.

Cr Dukalskis said it appeared there was “no mechanism” which council had confirmed whether sporting clubs and halls still qualified for rate rebate.

“I have been asking about OB Flat hall having an exemption for five years and cannot see if the area is still used for community purposes,” Cr Dukalskis said.

Elected members decided to receive information regarding community group or hall associations which receive the rate rebates within the next month.