BUDGET TIME: Somerset Regional Council Mayor Graeme Lehmann with Deputy Mayor Helen Brieschke.
BUDGET TIME: Somerset Regional Council Mayor Graeme Lehmann with Deputy Mayor Helen Brieschke.

BUDGET: The new charges, changes you need to know about

AFTER months of build up and deliberation, the new budget for the Somerset Regional Council has been decided.

In light of the drought, bushfires and floods that have impacted the region, and now the Covid-19 lockdowns, it came as little surprise when the SRC announced it would be a deficit budget.

To help make up for the deficit, there have been a number of raises, changes and decisions made regarding fees, charges and rates.

Read on to find out what sort of costs will be in effect for the 2020-21 financial year.

Rate changes

The SRC charges a broad range of different rates across 50 different categories, which are confusingly numbered from 2 to 402.

Somerset’s rates for residents are already among the cheapest in the state and they will rise only slightly, with a 1 per cent rise for owner-occupiers, farms and light commercial categories.

READ MORE: Council’s rates amid lowest in region for third year running

Discounts

For those who pay their rates within 42 days of the rate notice being issued, a special 15 per cent discount will apply to the amount charged.

This discount doesn’t extend to special charges such as those detailed below.

READ MORE: Early-bird discount for overdue rates payers

Fire levy

Another charge that has risen is the Rural Fire Levy, a special charge that is distributed between local fire brigades to help cover operational and equipment costs.

Due to increased demand in the wake of the brutal fire season, the levy has been raised from $25 per property to $35.60.

READ MORE: Landowners to support fireys through increased levy

Kennel inspection

As part of its commitment to ensuring local animals are properly cared for, the SRC carries out yearly inspections of all properties that contain a kennel.

In this context, the term kennel is used to refer to a site or structure that is used for the boarding, breeding or training of dogs, not merely housing domestic pets or dogs used for legitimate farm purposes.

To fund the inspections, each property that houses a kennel will be issued a special charge of $178.60.

READ MORE: Council’s controversial door-to-door program comes to a halt

Poultry farms

Intensive poultry farms are also subject to twice yearly inspections, with the term ‘intensive’ being used to refer to a location which houses or is able to house 20,000 or more birds for a broiler farm operation.

Due to the size of these facilities, and the more complex development process involved, inspections are more complicated and costly to carry out.

Rateable properties that are home to an intensive poultry farm will be charged a $2445.80 fee.

READ MORE: Mandatory water testing remains for poultry farm neighbours

Extractive industries

Major extractive industry operations such as quarries are also subject to regular inspections.

As with poultry farms, extractive operations need to be inspected twice yearly to ensure the sites comply with their development approval conditions and other legal requirements.

The special charge for properties housing an extractive industries operation is also $2445.80.

READ MORE: New quarry development off to a rocky start

Food inspections

Businesses and locations that regularly deal with food must also adhere to inspections, with different charges depending on the size and type of operations.

For supermarkets the charge is $312, while commercial food retail establishments such as cafes pay $180.

Not-for-profit food retail establishments such as halls pay a smaller fee of $122, while home kitchens, bed and breakfast establishments and host farms pay a $57 charge.

READ MORE: Butcher shop to make way for supermarket

Additional charges

There are two other special charges applied to all rate assessments, including a $20 Environmental Levy, which goes towards funding the council’s pest management operations.

The other special charge is the $28 State Emergency Services Levy, which is put towards the operating and holding costs of the SES brigades in the region, as well as other disaster prevention measures.

READ MORE: 80,000+ litres of herbicide deployed in pest plant crackdown

Further information about the SRC’s budget for 2020-21 can be found on its website.

More stories by Nathan Greaves.


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