Moira Council's $500,000 rates blunder

MOIRA Shire has been forced to apologise for a $500,000 blunder in recently issued rates notices.

More than 17,000 notices were mistakenly calculated using a lower rate than the figure published in the council’s 2014-15 adopted budget.

The council estimates the error would have resulted in a total revenue shortfall of more than $500,000 in this financial year.

The cost of re-printing and sending out notices is estimated at more than $10,000.

The howler comes in the same week Moira councillors voted not to proceed with an independent probity audit of the council’s finances and operations.

Recently appointed chief executive Mark Henderson issued an apology to ratepayers yesterday and said the buck stopped with him.

“I am disappointed it has happened and apologise for the inconvenience it has caused,” he said.

“It is not what we needed at this time.

“A probity audit wouldn’t pick up something like this.

“Responsibility sits with me.”

The Border Mail has obtained a memo from Mr Henderson to councillors explaining the mistake.

“This is one of those chief executive notifications that tests our relationship to the max, but which I can’t avoid,” he said.

“The average ratepayer probably won’t notice, but you can be assured that if it’s not on social media yet it soon will be.”

Mr Henderson said he was alerted to a potential problem by mayor Peter Mansfield.

Cobram ratepayer Scott Olson said he advised council staff about the mistake on Thursday.

“Where are the checks and balances to ensure mistakes like this don’t occur?” he said.

“It also provides no better justification for the independent probity audit ratepayers have been demanding.”

The revised rate notices will show a slight increase in the total amount due.

Mr Henderson said a “comprehensive review of our processes” would occur due to the mix-up.

“Right now our priority is to address the confusion we have caused for our customers,” he said.

“As a guide, a residential property or farm building with a capital improved value of $191,000 will see an increase of $20.25 to $1556.50 on the revised rate notice.”

All other charges were correct on the notices.

Mr Henderson said the due date for payments due by September 30 to October 30 this year will be extended, but council cannot delay the direct debit payments for customers on the 10 instalment plan.

“There may be other implications, for example people hoping to complete property settlements,” he said.