Rate relief approved for 320 Ballarat ratepayers

THE City of Ballarat approved hardship applications for 320 Ballarat ratepayers this financial year.

A rate relief program was proposed by the council last June to target residents and businesses hit hardest by hefty rate rises in the 2013-14 budget.

The council’s chief executive Anthony Schinck said councils were able to waive or defer rates if a person could demonstrate the payment would cause financial hardship.

Under the initiative, 320 people have made a payment plan for their rates.

“Council is currently monitoring 320 assessments,” Mr Schinck said.

“Each assessment is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and council may refer applicants to a financial counsellor before a formal application is considered.”

Mr Schinck said people who had difficulty paying all or part of their rates, charges or fire services property levy should contact the council’s revenue section for information on hardship applications.

Last June, Ballarat’s four per cent rate cap was scrapped to allow rate rises of 7.5 per cent (2013-14), 6.5 per cent (2014-15), 6 per cent (2015-16), and 5.5 per cent a year for subsequent years.

On Monday, the council indicated it was pushing ahead with the plan in the coming financial year.

The council’s 2014-15 draft budget, proposed for public release next week, would see the city continue with its current focus of investing in major infrastructure and community building projects.

Highlights include $13.44 million for roads, drains and footpaths. If approved, residential rates will rise 6.5 per cent and the commercial rate will go up by 4.5 per cent.

Councillors will vote on a recommendation on Wednesday to release the draft to the public for feedback.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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