Concern raised over proposed centralised property valuations

THE Swan Hill Rural City Council has been "left to deal with" the fallout of government introduced legislation that proposes a change to property valuations, potentially leaving council exposed to a $150,000 cost. 

Swan Hill Rural City Council offices.

Swan Hill Rural City Council offices.

The Victorian Government wants to centralise property valuations with the Valuer-General's office in Melbourne and change valuations from every two years to annually. 

The changes to valuations were part of the State Taxation Amendment Bill 2017 and came after no known consultation with the sector, according to Swan Hill Rural City Council and the state government lobby group. 

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) said the current structure for property valuations cost local councils $20 million every second year. 

Swan Hill Rural City Council director of corporate services David Lenton said the proposed changes "came out of left field" with council unsure of how to assess the impact. 

"We have a contract with a valuer who does all of our valuations, it's possible the Valuer-General may take over that contract or it's possible he may not, or we will have to try and negotiate our way around that," he said. 

"The main thing we can see at this stage...is that it is not definite if these proposed changes will affect municipality evaluations every year or not, so that potentially will mean an additional workload for administrative staff." 

The Swan Hill Rural City Council said they had been given no answers in regards to additional costs, however Mayor Les McPhee said it cost council $150,000 for valuations every second year. 

"Out of all of this, we are not sure what cost the Valuer-General will charge us for any services," Mr Lenton added. 

"We don't know those costs that they will pass onto us, we don't know if they will be the same, or if they will be more or less and if they are done annually or biennially."

MAV president Mary Lalios said the proposed changes would have a range of serious impacts on local council bodies.

Mr Lenton said council was also concerned about how queries from the public would be resolved and the potential weakening of the council service.

"If people have a query with valuation we handle the inquiry and they talk to our contract valuer, we handle that whole process and those meetings take place in Swan Hill or occasionally the valuer will meet people out on a remote property," he said.

"We are not sure with the proposed changes how that will be handled, whether they still come through us or contact the Valuer-Generals officer in Melbourne, that is another concern we have." 

Meanwhile, Cr Lalios said it was extremely unfair that the government had left council staff in the dark.

The proposed changes come after the MAV State Council threw their support behind a call for small rural shires to conduct revaluations every four years in an attempt to save councils the equivalent of a one to two per cent rate increase. 

MAV and the Swan Hill Rural City Council are calling for the government to conduct further consultation with local bodies.

"We certainly would like to see the changes postponed at a minimum to allow for more discussion and to get some answers on some of these impacts," Mr Lenton said.

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