By Brooke Haffenden
RESIDENTS from the Mernda Retirement Village are taking on the City of Whittlesea in a bid for a fairer valuation process and fairer rates.
Members of the Mernda Retirement Village Action Group, Bain Simpson and Emilio Moreno told the Whittlesea Review that there is an application before VCAT on March 28 challenging the valuation process.
The VCAT application is the next step in the process for the group following a council meeting earlier this month where council moved to write to the Minister for Local Government requesting that differential rating for retirement villages be allowed under Net Annual Value (NAV) rating.
The original recommendation put forward by officers was to maintain the status quo until the proposed new local government bill is enacted which forces all the councils currently under NAV to more to Capital Improved Value (CIV) system which allows for differential rating.
However, this change is not expected to come in force until 2020/21.
During a high tension council meeting, councillors Ricky Kirkham and Mary Lalios moved amendments to the recommendation for a 25 per cent rate concession for residents.
“Here at the City of Whittlesea we have an opportunity to set a precedent moving forward that anyone living at a retirement village will have a 25 per cent discount,” Cr Kirkham said.
Cr Lalios moved to refer a 25 per cent concession on retirement village rates to the 2018/19 budget process. And, offer this concession until the rating methodology is changed.
Some of the councillors opposed the amendment, with Cr Lawrie Cox calling it a ‘simplistic solution’ that does not solve problems.
After a lengthy debate that saw Cr Kirkham removed from chambers, council passed a resolution to send a letter to the Minister of Local Government.
Cr Tom Joseph told the Whittlesea Review that he is hopeful the Minister will favourably consider the request.
“Looking at all the available evidence I am convinced that the way the retirement village residents are rated is unfair. It is unfair because the lease value of their property is rated, which is substantially more than a similar sized property across the road,” Cr Joseph said.
“City of Whittlesea currently follows the NAV system of rating and unfortunately under that system the council is not allowed differential rating for retirement villages which is essentially what the residents of the retirement villages were seeking with their petition.”
Mr Simpson and Mr Moreno said the group was encouraged by council’s conversation regarding their plight, but pointed out that many councils including Maribyrnong, Glen Eira, Yarra City, City of Monash and East Gippsland offer pension concession for rates.
“Clearly the fact that it’s gone through in these other councils means it’s an option that clearly can’t be illegal,” Mr Simpson said.
“However, even if the special amendment was put through, and there was that discount, if the valuation is wrong the discount’s going to mean nothing because if the valuation’s go up we’re back to where we started,” Mr Moreno added.
Mr Simpson said until the group receives a response back from the Minister he will still pursue the VCAT application.
“What we’re talking about is the change from NAV to CIV. CIV enables them to provide us with a differential rate but it doesn’t mandate a differential rate. So you’ve got to win that argument again,” Mr Simpson explained.
Council were contacted for a comment but as the matter is before VCAT were unable to provide a response.