Council backing Lennox Head bid for lower rates

By Dawn Cohen

Lennox Head residents are closer to winning their battle for lower rates ? but residents in Ballina, Alstonville and Wollongbar may have to carry the cost.

Ballina Shire councillors supported a new method of collecting rates, proposed by the Lennox Head Residents' Association at a finance meeting last Thursday.

The organisation wants a base rate applied to all blocks, with a small top-up based on land values.

Ballina rates are currently calculated as a percentage of the land value, with a minimum rate of $383.

Skyrocketing land values in Lennox Head have pushed up rates in that area.

The coastal village is home to 18 per cent of Ballina Shire residents, but they pay 28 per cent of rates.

Twenty per cent of ratepayers live in Wollongbar and Alstonville, but they fill only 15 per cent of the shire's coffers, said Lennox Head Residents Association treasurer, Fred Goodman.

"The services council provides for your rates cost about $587 a year, whatever your land value," he said.

Under the proposed system, ratepayers with residential land values of more than $175,000 will pay less, while properties valued between $50,000-$150,000 will fork out more.

It was sweet news for Beth Walker, proprietor of Ballina Ice Creamery and Internet Cafe.

Beth and her daughter, Renee, own a Pimlico property with a land value of $400,000.

"We bought it three years ago, and it has gone up a lot in value since then," she said. "The rates went up a little, but it is not too bad."

Mayor Phil Silver said the council expressed a preference for a 50 per cent base rate system at the meeting.

"But we have not made a commitment to that," he said. "Council called for a series of studies in time for the 20005/06 budget."

Cr Keith Johnson has proposed a third approach, called differential rating, aimed at solving the ongoing problem of escalating land prices on rates.

He wants a different method of calculating rates applied to small locales in the shire, depending on how much land values had increased in that area.

Ballina Shire Council staff will conduct an intensive investigation of differential rating over the next three weeks.

They will be trying to work out how much rates are likely to be.

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