Republished from 28 March 2021
Manly business rates are set to rise by an average 42% and resident rates by an average 26% from July 1 following approval by Northern Beaches councillors in March.
The so-called “harmonisation” of rates – a by-product of the state government’s forced amalgamation in 2016 – will increase the average residential rate for those in the former Manly Council area by $306 to $1,703. The average business rates will increase even further, with almost $1,300 likely to be added to the average bill, roughly $4,600 in total a year.
You can read our article forewarning of the rate raise in December and again earlier this year.
The change will also deliver a slight reduction in residential council rates for those in the former Warringah and Pittwater areas, and an average $380 yearly saving for businesses in the Warringah area.
Why are our rates changing?
The Council was required to have fully harmonised rates in place by July this year – essentially to ensure equally assessed rates were being paid across all former government areas Manly, Pittwater and Warringah.
It is worth noting that overall Council says it will not be collecting any more revenue through this process. Councillors have been asked to vote for a system that redistributes the way rates are calculated so they are the same across the entire Northern Beaches. The option chosen is a rate based on the value of land and at the maximum allowable amount.
Currently, the minimum rate for residential ratepayers from the former Manly Council is $860.62, compared to $931.92 for residential ratepayers from the former Pittwater Council and $1,022.94 for residential ratepayers from the former Warringah Council.
The amount paid is usually much more as it’s more often calculated as a per centage of land value.
When they go low, we go high
While the harmonisation process was a forced measure upon Councils, the many opponents to the increase in Manly questioned why rates needed to be harmonised at the higher rather than lower rate, given the financial difficulties felt by many in the electorate after a year of COVID impacts.
“All the scenarios put forward assume the maximum overall rate increase allowed…You could settle for a lower, ongoing rate collection and deliver amalgamation savings to all voters,” resident Christopher Moorman said in a statement at Tuesday’s Council meeting; sentiments echoed by another speaker, Robert Bruce.
Warringah, Pittwater areas to get a reduction
For Mayor Michael Regan, any reduction in rates would mean a cut in services or reduced ability to maintain existing infrastructure – he said Manly Council was heavily in debt when the amalgamation occurred.
“We are paying off millions of dollars in debt, getting our assets back in shape and still being able to fund significant new infrastructure and services. And we have been able not just to absorb the financial impacts of COVID but also support our community via rate relief and business support.”
But he said it was still a challenging decision for Council.
“It’s hard to endorse an increase for one ratepayer but equally difficult to deny the decrease to another who has been paying more than others for years.
“Ultimately, we should all be paying the same for the same Council services.”
Rates and annual charges make up 58% per cent of Council’s annual income.
Manly rate hike to be ripped off like band-aid
Manly Ward councillor Sarah Grattan had advocated for the gradual increase of rates, but this was not approved by the majority of councillors at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Given the hefty impost and rate shock on residents I am grateful that Northern Beaches Council has been actively lobbying the Office of Local Government to enable us to gradually introduce the harmonization over a number of years, with a cap of 10% as to the annual increase excluding the rate peg.
“As rate adjustments in areas of former Pittwater and Warringah are small, I’d ask Councillors to consider the large increases being felt by Manly and agree to Option 2 that will harmonise the rates over the next four years and take advantage of the advocacy and consideration provided by the Office of Local Government.”
A majority of councillors voted against any gradual introduction of the changes, arguing it was better to rip the Band-Aid off. It was also argued that residents from former Warringah and Pittwater council areas should not have to wait for their slight reduction in rates.
Cr Grattan and another councillor Cr David Walton said the feedback from the community consultation period had made it clear that residents felt the rates were too high, and that Council should be looking to make efficiencies in its next budget.
Manly chamber not happy
The issue becomes a little more complicated when we look at rate charges for businesses in the Manly CBD. These businesses have actually been subject to a different set of rules including having to pay an additional “special rate”, comparable to those in Warringah Mall. The issue of Manly CBD’s “special rate” was postponed from the Council agenda to be dealt with in coming weeks and months.
Manly Business Chamber President Charlotte Rimmer said the chamber was very disappointed to see Manly CBD being compared to Westfield shopping centre instead of Dee Why Grand, Lighthouse and Forest Way, in the way its rates and levy were imposed, and they will be lobbying to improve outcomes for their members.
This matter will be looked at in a separate article shortly.