Whanganui District Council’s one-off rates remission scheme had received 135 applications by the end of November - fewer than expected.
The up-to-$500 remission is available in the 2023-24 financial year to ratepayers who had a rates increase of more than $700 and a gross household income of no more than $90,000 from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.
It was introduced as a result of significant fluctuations in rates increases between suburbs following property valuations last year. Aramoho and Castlecliff’s average land values increased by 148 per cent and 143 per cent respectively from three years previously.
Applications received to date are valued at a total of $35,730, which is more than the $20,000 budget allowance. That means any remissions granted above that allowance will be loan funded.
Council chief financial officer Mike Fermor told a council operations and performance committee meeting staff did not know how the scheme would be received.
“We did think $20,000 might have been a bit light at the time, but [application numbers were] lower than I thought [they] would be,” he said.
“[People] can continue to apply right up to June next year.”
New remission scheme likely next year
Last week, Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe warned of another rates hike in 2024/25, with a high scenario of a 14.8 per cent increase, a medium of 9.5 per cent and a low of 5.8 per cent.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Tripe said he expected another council rates remission scheme to be introduced next year.
However, it would be different to this year’s.
“The last one was done on the basis of revaluation, and some people were particularly affected by that,” he said.
“For next year, I would like to have a mayoral rates remission fund with some criteria behind it - basically around rates affordability.
“There will be strict criteria. Obviously, it’s not up for grabs for everyone.”
Tripe said no matter which of the three scenarios was in place in 2024, rates would still be “high in historical terms”.
The council was being as responsible and responsive as it could regarding the issue, with a six-point plan to tackle rates now in place, he said.
“We need to be as efficient as we can and be good stewards of ratepayers’ funds.
“Being responsive is understanding the predicament people will be in.”
Increase in rates rebates
The council’s remission scheme was in addition to central government’s rates rebates, Tripe said.
That provides a rebate of up to $750 for low-income earners who are paying rates for the home they were living in on July 1, 2023.
Through that scheme, the council has granted 2567 rebates worth a total of $1,844,315 so far this financial year.
This time last year, 2300 had been granted for a total of $1,537,015.
Currently, the income eligibility for a rebate is $30,100, and rebates are calculated on income, rates and the number of dependants living with the ratepayer.
Fermor said he had no indication of whether the new coalition Government would alter the criteria.
Mike Tweed is an assistant news director and multi-media journalist at the Whanganui Chronicle. Since starting in March 2020, he has dabbled in everything from sport to music. At present, his focus is local government, primarily Whanganui District Council.