The NSW government doesn’t want to pay rates on asbestos-affected properties, leaving Greater Hume Council with an immediate $12,500 budget shortfall.
In a letter to council, Property NSW referenced a section of the local government act that exempts Crown-owned land, not being held under a lease for private purposes, from rates.
It relates to the 15 properties acquired by the state, and a refund on utilities paid on those properties so far is also being sought.
General Manager Steven Pinnuck disagreed the exemption applied, as the land was being held for resale, the circumstances have been brought about by the state government, and rates could be paid out of the $250 million voluntary purchase program.
But Property NSW was satisfied the exemption applied and stated that the program funding was for “payment to affected homeowners … not for payment of rates to local councils”.
Mr Pinnuck said the decision was disappointing.
“Property NSW has paid the first installment of rates and decided to claim an exemption,” he said.
“Legally, they’re entitled to do what they’re doing in that Crown land is essentially non-rateable.
“What I’ve put to them is that’s fine for normal Crown land, but this is not a normal process, this is land that’s been acquired by the government for people affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation and is being held for resale.
“These rates should be funded from the program costs and not borne by the local council and ultimately the ratepayers.”
As at least 20 of the 38 affected properties will be transferred to the state government, with each paying general rates of $625 annually council will lose $12,500 in the 2018-19 budget.
Mr Pinnuck said the ongoing fall-out was unknown.
“We don’t know what the program to reintroduce those proprieties onto the market will be; recently they put two up for auction; council purchased one and the other was passed in,” he said.
“Given there’s a significant number of properties in a small town they may decide to bring them onto the market over a number of years.
“It will have a small impact on the immediate budget, but it’s a long-term impact.
“It’s not right the ratepayers should be essentially paying for what’s been a government decision to enter into this program.”
Council has provided $38,000 to match state government assistance funding.
Twenty applications on behalf of property owners have been put to the government totalling $113,421, of which six have been paid to date.
Council will discuss the issue and a recommendation to seek the support of Member for Albury Greg Aplin on Wednesday night.