Thirty-six property owners could be hit with higher rates next financial year despite calls by the state government to freeze rates during the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 16, the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale council moved to request the state’s local government minister to change the basis of rates for 36 properties to gross rental value after a review last year found properties appeared not to be adhering to their specified land use.
Owners were then advised.
The item was deliberated for five minutes behind closed doors before the recommendation was carried 6-3 with councillors Rob Coales, Keira McConkey and Lauren Strange opposing the move, which came hours after the state government implemented a freeze on household fees.
King Road Brewing Co owner David McKee said he first became aware of the plans more than a fortnight ago after receiving a letter in the mail.
Mr McKee has been at the property for 15 years, the last three of which he has spent operating a family-run brewery with 40 staff and hundreds of patrons each week.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak Mr McGee said the business had numerous scheduled gigs, weddings and gatherings cancelled. With little information available regarding just how much the increase could set the business back Mr McGee said he would now be forced to play the waiting game.
“It’s hard to say what the impact will be,” he said.
“But anything at the moment is going to have an impact on the business.
“We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks as far as the coronavirus situation goes.” Member for Darling Range Alyssa Hayden said the issues facing the business sector as a result of the virus were unprecedented.
“We have to remember that these businesses right now are experiencing something they haven’t before,” she said.
“When you’ve got a venue like this that has 40 staff and they’re losing events I don’t know how long the owner can hang onto it and keep the business afloat.
“At a time when local businesses need support, we’re seeing a local government wanting to increase their rates because they believe they need to be done on a gross rent value instead of the system they’re on.
“I don’t see their rhyme or reason behind this.
“In my opinion, it’s a cash grab by the shire.”
Mrs Hayden has since written to the shire requesting that it reconsider its decision and undertake extensive consultation with business owners affected.
However, Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president Michelle Rich said the report was prepared prior to the escalating impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and that it would be considered in preparing the 2020/21 Budget.
“It is important to note that this is not about increasing the rate being charged, it is about ensuring rating equity for the application of valuation methodology for all properties in the shire,” she said.
“Council has no power to determine the valuation methodology, this is ultimately determined by the minister for local government.
“The shire recognises the significant challenges facing households, businesses and ratepayers in these unprecedented times.”
It is understood the rates will now reach WA local government minister David Templeman before being forwarded to state government land and development agency LandCorp.