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Rates and charges

Taking care of rates

Councils need to charge rates to raise revenue so they can provide services and infrastructure to their communities. Each year, as part of the budget process, councils decide the rates and charges for the financial year. The level of rates that landowners must pay is at the sole discretion of their council.

How do councils control rates?

Councils carry out the following processes to help determine what level of rates to charge:

  • evaluate and determine the range of services it needs to support the community for example, waste management, local roads and suburban care
  • decide how much money is needed to fund services and infrastructure
  • establish how much funding it can expect to receive from the federal and state governments and other income sources
  • determine how much money is required from rates and charges to cover the balance of expenditures
  • decide on the best mix of rates and charges to provide services to the community.

To find out more about how your council levies rates and charges, contact your council directly.

Types of rates and charges

Councils must levy a general or differential general rate on all rateable land. However, councils have considerable flexibility in calculating the rates they choose to adopt.

  • A rate levied equally on the unimproved value of the land and is expressed as a number of cents per dollar of valuation. It is the same rate in the dollar for all rateable land in the local government area.

  • A rate levied where it would be inequitable and unfair to levy a single general rate on all land in a council's area. Councils may determine different categories of rateable land based on land use, access or consumption of council services. A council may levy a different rate in the dollar for each category.

  • The minimum amount payable of a general rate or differential general rate determined by council, irrespective of valuation.

  • A rate or charge levied equally on all rateable land in the local government area to fund a particular service, facility or activity that benefits the entire community. For example, an environment levy, waste management levy, or bushland preservation levy.

  • A levy on specific land which receives a special benefit from the provision of a service, facility or activity e.g. road maintenance.

  • A charge for the provision of water, gas, sewerage or refuse collection services. Water charges may have a two-part charge for access and consumption.

  • A state government charge listed on the rate notice. This money is collected through the rate notice and is paid to the state government e.g. an 'urban fire levy' which helps to fund fire services in the area.

How valuation changes affect rates

It is not the valuation that determines the amount of the general rate or differential general rate you pay, it is determined by the 'rate' (or cents per dollar) which a council applies to that valuation. If you live in a townhouse or unit complex, the council will levy your general or differential general rate on the portion of the valuation allocated according to your interest schedule of lot entitlement or, alternatively, you may be charged the minimum general rate set by council.

Making a complaint about a rates notice

To make a complaint about your rates notice, you must contact your council directly.

Council budgets

Councils are required to adopt a budget for each financial year. In normal circumstances, the budget is adopted after 31 May and before 1 August each year. The annual budget must be consistent with the aims and direction of the council's corporate plan, its revenue policy and annual operational plan.

Revenue sources

There are six main ways that local governments raise money to provide infrastructure and services to communities:

  • rates and charges
  • fees
  • profit from council-owned businesses including child care centres, public housing, caravan parks and camping grounds, sporting and recreational facilities and areas, cultural and heritage activities and transport services
  • grants and subsidies
  • loans
  • developer contributions and infrastructure charges levied on land being developed to pay for water supply, sewerage and drainage, roads and pathways and public recreation.

Councils are required to document the processes used to raise revenue. These documents are publicly available and include the corporate plan, operational plan, revenue policy, revenue statement and budget. To view any of these documents contact your council or visit their website.

Last updated: 09 Nov 2021