Hobsons Bay ratepayers will, on average, pay less in rates than they did last year after the Council approved the 2020-21 Budget last Tuesday.

Despite a number of furphies being circulated by people keen on propagating “fake news”, the average residential property across the city will receive a 0.17 per cent decrease in rates this year.

And the commercial sector should receive a rate decrease of 1.91 per cent on average.

While this goes to the owners of those properties, if a business is leasing the premises, I would expect the landlord to pass on the relief.

The industrial sector should receive a slight rate decrease of 0.02 per cent on average, largely leaving rates relatively unchanged from 2019-20.

Five of the six rating categories will have decreases.

There will, as always, be variations from surburb to suburb and property to property as a result of State Government-imposed annual general property revaluations, which the council has absolutely no control over. 

The revaluations do not generate more income for the council: it just causes variations from suburb to suburb.

While the council did increase rates nominally by 2 per cent for 2020-21, it has largely returned the money back to the majority of property owners in the form of targeted rebates.

The rebates will automatically flow through to rate notices. Ratepayers will not have to apply for them.

I urge people to check their rate notices when they receive them in September.

Council modelling from the revaluations shows Newport residents should, on average, pay $1 more than last year, South Kingsville $17 less, Spotswood $114 less, Williamstown $10 more and Williamstown North $26 more.

The variation is a factor of the general property revaluations.

If anyone believes the revaluation of their property is inaccurate, please contact the council to have it reviewed.

Council has also increased the normal rebate to pension card holders and DVA gold card holders by almost 50 per cent.

Anyone doing it tough with COVID-19, can also apply for financial relief under the council’s Hardship Policy.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, Council has poured $3m to help our community, including a number of measures to reduce the burden on businesses, such as waiving fees for health inspections or footpath table and chair settings.

Another $3 million has been allocated in the 2020-21 Budget to further support business and the community.

While I appreciate that not every business has footpath settings or needs to have health inspections, the council is trying to help as many businesses as it can with the things that it controls.

Council also has scope to make adjustments at the half-year Budget review in February if the pandemic worsens.

The Budget has forecast an operational surplus of $23.8 million.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about surpluses.

It is NOT a stack of money which the Council stashes away for a rainy day.

The surplus is used to fund capital works.

So to make it clear: it is a budgetary surplus BEFORE the capital works program is taken into account.

All councils aim to reduce their operating costs to maximise the surplus so they can carry out their capital works program, topping it up with reserves, grants and borrowings. In our case, Hobsons Bay is prudent in not borrowing to fund capital works.

We do have a large capital works program of $67.6 million planned in 2020-21.

All levels of government know it is important to provide capital works projects to provide jobs and stimulate the economy and that is one reason why we need to maintain a healthy program.

People in jobs helps keep the economy going, even at a local level. Hopefully, they will spend their earnings by patronising local businesses.

Our community still has expectations on getting their streets and footpaths fixed, their sportsground or pavilion renewed, community centres upgraded, playgrounds renewed, more trees planted, etc.

Hobsons Bay is very fortunate that it has picked up $6 million from the State Government as a Working For Victoria grant.

This will be also used to employ locals who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Councils rely on State and Federal governments to provide grants.

That’s because the other two levels of government have the biggest coffers by a long shot.

Councils only account for 3 per cent of every Australian’s tax dollar. State Governments take 18 per cent and the Federal Government 79 per cent.

That’s why we look to the State and Federal governments to do most of the heavy lifting in crises such as COVID-19.