Council to fix Queenstown rates cock-up

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Queenstown’s council will have a crack at fixing its major rates cock-up on Tuesday.

In August, the council had to issue a grovelling apology to ratepayers “for inconvenience, confusion or concern” when its first rates bill of the 2012-13 financial year went out.

A new rating system combined with a three-yearly property revaluation caused what was officially labelled “an unforeseen rating anomaly”.

“Some ratepayers [were] paying disproportionately more than others and some disproportionately less,” acting chief executive and finance manager Stewart Burns said at the time.

A rating re-jig would be required with “reductions for those properties showing large increases and increases for those properties showing large decreases”, Burns added.

Ratepayers were told to pay the incorrect amounts on their first rates bill and adjustments would be made to the remaining three instalments.

The public were also assured the total rates take would remain unchanged – the only difference would be the divvy-up among individual properties.

A proposal called “Sorting Out The Rates” to remedy the number-crunching cock-up went out in September, drawing 34 submissions – 25 of them anti.

The final fix-it plan for Tuesday’s council meeting is described as “consistent with the original draft proposal” – council code for “no changes as a result of submissions”.

The sums to be collected via three capital-value rates – including the controversial new “bed tax” or “recreation and events” rate – will be slashed by 50 per cent.

However, the same dollar sums will now be garnered via fixed charges – a flat tax per property.

The payment deadline for the next rates bill is December 7 – a fortnight later than usual.

In a small-print section of a briefing paper, Burns warns councillors that ratepayers with lower-priced properties will be hit harder than those with expensive places.

“These changes effectively transfer rates from higher value properties to lower value,” Burns says.