Evans stuck with rate slug

ONLY four people were in the Richmond Valley Council chambers yesterday as a controversial new rating structure was decided.

Community groups and residents had been fuming in the lead-up to the final meeting, where councillors voted to charge rates according to land values, meaning some residents' rates will increase almost 40 per cent.

Despite the public concern, only four community members turned up to hear the verdict - two of them representatives of local ratepayer associations.

Donella Kinnish, secretary of the Evans Head and District Residents and Ratepayers' Association Inc, was outraged with the decision and wanted the council to look at other rating options.

"Some of these increases in the new structure are astronomical," she said.

The changes to business rates will be introduced over two years.

The council had calculated its rates according to a differential rates system left over from the amalgamation of Richmond River Council and Casino Council in 2000.

But under the new unified rates system, for the 2008/09 financial year the average residential rate in Casino will be reduced by 16.42 per cent (about $94), and by 6.7 per cent (about $35) for businesses in the first year, with a similar reduction in the second year.

At Evans Head, residents will have to pay an average of $291 more each year, and businesses will face an expected average increase of $664 in the first year.

Most towns in the shire will pay at least an extra $100.

However, mayor Charlie Cox said that the new system was fair.

"I liken it to income tax - a person is taxed according to their income, so it makes sense that land value be behind rates and rating structures," Cr Cox said.

"People might consider the changes to be large at first if they just look at the percentages, but the dollar value per week really isn't that much.

"There was no fairness in remaining with the status quo, as Casino people were paying too much for the value of their land.

"This new structure is fair and is in line with the Local Government Act."

Casino resident Jean Auckram said she would rather pay higher rates if it meant people in the more expensive towns like Evans Head would not have to pay such a big increase.

"It definitely is not fair," Ms Auckram said.

"They should have to pay a little bit more in places with greater land value, but not this much more.

"A lot of people won't be able to afford it."

However, Cr Sandra Humphrys said the capacity of people to pay their rates was not the council's responsibility, while Cr Ray Jeffery said the change was 'immoral and unethical' as ratepayers were not given enough time to prepare for it.

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