DEBT: Council's outstanding rates bill has almost doubled in two years.
DEBT: Council's outstanding rates bill has almost doubled in two years. Candyce Braithwaite

Council's unpaid rates double in two years

Council has revealed there is $1,217,375.50 in outstanding rates in the North Burnett, representing 8.8 per cent of the rates levied in 2018-19.

The information was contained within the council's Finance Report to 31 May 2019, a document which is a legal requirement under the Local Government Regulation 2012.

While each of the six towns in the North Burnett has outstanding rates to pay, they are dwarfed by Eidsvold, which contains almost one third of all unpaid rates in the region (31 per cent).

Eidsvold is followed by Monto (21 per cent), Mount Perry (19 per cent), Gayndah and Mundubbera (both 10 per cent) and Biggenden (nine per cent).

Seventy per cent of outstanding rates were from the current or the previous rates cycle, while the other 30 per cent are between two and four years old.

However, what will concern Council is how much unpaid rates have risen since 2015-16, when they reached a low point of $628,399.

In 2016-17, this amount had only risen slightly, to $631,170.

However, in 2017-18 this had increased sharply to $867,573.

All the above figures include credit assessments as well as unpaid rates.

A spokesman for Council said unpaid rates are a "huge challenge” for councils Australia-wide.

"When these rates go unpaid, it puts pressure on Council's ability to deliver for its community,” he said.

However, he denied the near doubling of unpaid rates had anything to do with Council's rate rises in 2017 and 2018, 3.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.

"Rate increases in previous years have been comparable to the increase in other services like electricity and registration,” he said.

"Rate rises are something that Council considers very carefully and (are) affected by a range of factors sometimes outside of Council's control.

"Outstanding rates have doubled over the past two years, which is a direct reflection of economic circumstances in rural and regional Queensland along with the impact of drought and the prolonged effect of natural disasters.”

The spokesman said Council had a variety of payment methods for residents struggling to pay their rates, including personalised payment plans, and he encouraged those with an outstanding debt to contact Council to discuss their situation.

There is a process which Council follows to claw back debt.

They issue two letters with all the information required to pay the outstanding debt, along with an offer to contact Council to discuss other options.

Council then tries to make phone contact.

If unsuccessful, the case is then referred to a Council meeting for consideration.

Once councillors consider the case individually, the services of an external debt collector may be utilised.

The "last resort” is for Council to sell property to fix the debts, the spokesman said.

For residential property this cannot occur until three years after the debt has commenced.

The last time Council sold property to fix a debt was in October 2016.

Council issued 400 second notice letters on May 1 chasing unpaid rates.

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