In a shock move, the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale will raise council rates by six percent for the 2023/24 financial year.
Council officers recommended a 5.8 percent increase to all rates in line with the March Perth Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures household inflation.
Other local governments have also chosen to raise rates to counteract inflation, but most have adopted a rise below the March CPI.
The City of Gosnells’ rates rose by only 3.5 percent, Kwinana has adopted a 4.2 percent increase and residents in the City of Cockburn were given a last-minute reprieve when their councillors adopted a 4.5 percent rate increase instead of the recommended five percent.
On Monday’s Special Council Meeting, Cr Dean Strautins brought a motion to raise the rate to six percent – a move which he said could eventually alleviate future rises for ratepayers.
The extra dollars raised by the additional 0.2 percent would total $55,789 for the SJ Shire.
He proposed saving the funds in “an annual legacy reserve to create investment opportunities”– an idea that he said was in line with some other councils in Western Australia and local governments overseas.
He said it was prudent for the shire to investigate other income streams beside rates collection to fund the council’s annual spending.
“I’m a great believer that we need to find additional paths of income to ease the burden of debt on ratepayers,” he said.
But Cr Rob Coales spoke against the motion, saying local residents were being hit by increased costs of living from all directions without council “continuing that diatribe”.
“We cannot keep milking our ratepayers. As a cash cow, I think their milk has run dry.
“If we put the rates up too high, we risk turning away businesses.”
He instead advocated for a more concentrated effort on appealing to state and federal governments for further grant funding.
Cr Strautins said the additional 0.2 percent realistically meant an extra “$3-5 per rateable property”, and he believed that he and Cr Coales were coming from the same place with a future fund potentially boosting grant opportunities by improving the shire’s image through fiscal responsibility.
“This increases our chances of attracting co-funding,” he said.
“The last four years we have not kept up with inflation and we are now $1.4 million poorer.”
Cr Michael D’Agostino and Deputy Mayor Dave Atwell both spoke in support of the motion.
Cr Atwell said he’d left his “dinosaur thinking behind”.
“In days gone by I would have thought this was ridiculous. But I’ve recently come around to this way of thinking. If you want to go anywhere, you have to invest in your future,” he said.
The motion was passed 6-3 and the six percent rate rise adopted.