Manjimup Shire Council has announced it will freeze rates in response to the COVID-19 crisis as other South West shires consider similar measures over the coming weeks.
Shire president Paul Omodei said the council had decided to freeze any potential increases in rates, interest and charges for the 2020-21 financial year and was considering other measures to support business and the economy. “We’ve signalled clearly that we are going to freeze rates, that means people will only receive the same bill that they received last year,” he said.
Cr Omodei said the measure would cause a budget deficit.
Manjimup Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Victoria Howe said the rate freeze was a positive first step.
“It’s a great start and hopefully we’ll see some more funding and support come from governments, whether that be Federal or State,” she said. “We look forward to working with the shire to support our local businesses.”
A meeting is being planned by Bridgetown-Greenbushes Shire Council to discuss measures to support the community, including the possibility of rate freezes.
Shire president John Nicholas said the council could not commit to any measures, but rates would be considered at the meeting.
“We’ve now committed to a special meeting ... to have a look at a range of issues, including the freezing of all of our fees and charges and our rates for the next financial year,” he said.
Other changes to consider included the reduction of interest on rates and the refunding of fees to businesses which had paid for alfresco dining.
“We are hoping that the council will be able to make some formal announcement of what it’s projecting for those issues into 2021 and what can be done on a singular basis to help those people who have already committed to paying some of those fees or charges,” he said.
Boyup Brook Shire Council is also considering a rate freeze for the 2020-2021 financial year.
Chief executive officer Chris Smith said the measure could potentially halt some of the shire’s growth plans.
“An annual rate increase is normally ... between 3 and 5 per cent, that's about $150,000.”
“I think that we can tighten our belt accordingly and we can be quite comfortable within that structure for one year.”
Donnybrook-Balingup shire president Brian Piesse suggested a rate freeze would be discussed at the April council meeting.
“I couldn’t see a position where we would go against the recommendation that we should do that,” he said. The council increased rates by 1.9 per cent last year, which Cr Piesse suggested put it in a worse position than other shires who had higher rate increases last year.
“By freezing it on a low base, that’s going to be far more challenging to us than people who put their rates up by 5 or 6 per cent,” he said.
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